Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Madison Smith, 3 and Kierra Horvath, 8 would periodically tire of their pumpkin carving chores and retreat to enjoyment of a token-driven machine at Daugherty’s party barn in Bellville recently. The two youngsters joined about 25 adult youngsters in a recent carving party given annually by Shelly Smith.

Madison is the daughter of Jamie Smith and she is Shelly’s granddaughter. Kierra is the granddaughter of Mr. and Mrs. Wendell Swank of Bellville.

These 16 pumpkins lined up for their pre-judging portrait at the carving event.

Richard Stone of Bellville is pictured with his grand-prize winning effort, His carving tied with one done by host Shelly but she graciously passed the winnings to Stoney for his entirely free-form, non-patterned design. Besides, we have it on good authority Shelly has a tradition of respect for her elders.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

An emotionally disturbed Ceely Rose (left) suffers the antagonism of her peers Molly Tucker and Tracy Davis in this scene from the general store of the play Ceely. The production was done in the barn at Malabar Farm.


She was “tetched” as they used to say long ago. Ceely was born in Pike County Ohio in 1873. Her dad was a veteran of the Civil War and her mom—if, in fact she was theirs—was a strong and self assured woman.

The family mysteriously moved from Pike County in about 1880 and settled in a house that stands to this day on Malabar Farm.

The folks in neighboring Pleasant Valley then knew Ceely wasn’t ‘quite right’; perhaps from strains of madness that ran in the family back to their origins in Germany.

Known as “Silly Rose” she was a child in a grown-up body as described by Mark Sebastian Jordan, author and playwrite.

He continued, “Flooded with all the hormonal chemicals but without a mature mind to control them” Ceely fell in love with a young neighbor man. She was going to marry him she declared.

In Jordan’s play presented by the very capable folks from the Mansfield Playhouse and staged in Malabar’s barn over two recent weekends, Ceely’s marriage plans were thwarted by her domineering family.

Ceely eliminated that problem. She thwarted them.
After a confession cleverly obtained by the then Richland County prosecutor she was committed to a state mental hospital in Lima where she died as an old woman.

Ceely was played by Rhiannon Evans a mother of four daughters who lives with her family in Lexington.

Jordan who wrote and directed the play is based in north central Ohio and is a prominent figure in the regional arts scene.

His play was named one of the “Four scariest things to do in Ohio for Halloween” by the Ohio State Tourism Commission in 2004.

Formed in 1929 The Mansfield Playhouse, now celebrating its 40th anniversary in its current location, is Ohio’s oldest continuously producing community theater.

Here! Here!

Monday, October 29, 2007


Today’s standard of excellence is mediocrity.

(Note: In recent years I have observed a decline in the quality of many products, services, and performance in general. Postings under this title from time to time will explore this hypothesis.)

The following is one of those times:

I ordered play tickets from Malabar Farm over the phone recently. I needed two. They cost $15 for the play only, or $30 if you chose to eat there. I asked for the play only; 2 each at $15. Total cost $30. Simple.


There was an envelope waiting for me when I arrived for the play; just as the guy on the phone said there would be. It had my name as Carrie Woosi and it included two tickets, all right—the $30 each variety and my credit card had been bludgeoned for exactly double what I ordered.

The only thing this clown managed to record correctly was the credit card number.

And, standing right there beside me when this extra drama unfolded was another customer who had just endured an identically pathetic experience.

Apologetic folks at the ticket counter assured me my refund of $30 would be made by the good folks at the playhouse in Mansfield. (It was).

Fortunately the show, performed by the staff of the Mansfield Playhouse, was done with substantial professionalism; something the Malabar Farm telephone order taker needs to work on.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

It is a challenging, 75-step climb to the top of Bellville’s elevator (top photo). The four white windows at the very top of the building (bottom photo) shed light on Cary Carter as he examines some of the elevator’s 10 grain bins.


In 1870 the Ohio Legislature passed the Cannon Act establishing the Ohio Agriculture and Mechanical College, later to become known as The Ohio State University. It is believed the elevator on Ogle St. was constructed that same year.

Although its role has changed in those past 137 years it remains an energetic retail business to this day.

Back then farmers would bring their grain to town in wagons. It would be dumped and chuted into the structure’s basement where it would be hauled aloft some five stories to 2,000 bushel wooden bins.

Chuck Ruhl, a now-retired employee of the elevator for more than 50 years, explained the original power for moving the grain was provided by donkey’s. They were tethered to a large wheel and would walk in circles inside the building turning gears that moved small hoppers in vertical columns to the bins far above.

Gary Carter, manager of the RFD elevator—as it is known today—points out a bin full or corn would weigh approximately 112,000 pounds. With all ten bins full more than one million pounds of grain could be stored up there.

Carter remembers the ageless building accomplishing that feat as recently as 10 years ago. He’s not willing to attempt that again.

Back then the grain would be mostly loaded onto train cars and shipped to distant markets. The railroad ceased running behind the mill in the early 1990s.

The elevator was originally owned by Isaac Gatton. It was purchased by the Farm Bureau in 1940 then changed hands to Landmark in 1965. It closed briefly in 1982 then reopened as Bell Grain. In 1986 it was bought by Don Clark and became known as Rural Farm Distributors.

A picture from 1925 shows a mixture of small trucks and horsedrawn wagons delivering potatoes to the elevator—a primary part of the business in those days. One old invoice from that period showed the Bellville Board of Education purchased 23 feet of 1 x 8 lumber for 44 cents.
The business was more diversified then.

Today the business caters largely to smaller, “hobby-type” farms and Four-H programs. Their number one seller is horsefeed. Wild bird seed is in second place.

Carter, who has been with the elevator more than 20 years worries about the aging building’s future. “In England” he points out, “they have tax incentives to fix and maintain their old buildings.”

“Here, if you try to restore an old building, the cost is prohibitive. Then, when you do make improvements, they increase your taxes,” he lamented.
Some historical info from an old edition of The Bellville Star.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


This process, little known to consumers, is a bit of production wizardry that enhances profit.

Bananas are grown in the tropics, a fairly long way from the world’s population centers. Consequently, they are picked while quite green so they do not over-ripen before they reach the market.

When they near their destinations they are warehoused where they are exposed to Ethylene gas for a day, or more, which accelerates their ripening; turning bananas into that pleasing yellow color most consumers prefer.

There. Now you know if you didn’t before.

It is far beyond the scope of this blog to evaluate the health merits of this process.

But, it is easy to find health advocates who are troubled by it.

Generally, they recommend avoiding the commercially gassed bananas and instead place bananas in a paper bag to encourage natural ripening. They also recommend storing ripe bananas in the refrigerator, which will turn the skin brown but not adversely affect their flavor.

Or, keep them in a dark plastic bag sealed with a twist tie to preserve the peak of ripeness.

Me? I’m pushing the late 60s and have enjoyed remarkably good health in spite of eating lots and lots of bananas over that lifetime.

I don’t think I will even raise this question with my grocer or my doctor.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Tubas on Parade—Bellville, OH 10/25/07: The four-tuba section of the Clear Fork High School Marching Band is a swirl of lights and color as they perform in the community’s annual Halloween Parade. Several thousand people lined Main St. to enjoy the spectacle after squadrons of goblins plundered the town during an hour of polite, trick-or-treat mahem immediately preceding the parade.

The photo was done by walking backward alongside the band during a 1.6 second exposure at F13 with an ISO of 1600. The colorful lights on the third tuba from the left were battery-powered lamps attached to the instrument’s horn.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


The top issuer of general purpose credit cards in the US is Bank of America. Visa is number one in market share (ranked by card type) with 54% followed by MasterCard at 29%.

The first widely accepted plastic charge card was issued in 1958 by American Express. Today they are third in the market share race with 13%.

Surprisingly, the Federal Reserve reports the average interest rate across all existing credit card accounts was 13.46% in May 2007.

The median US household income is currently $43,200 and the typical family’s median credit card balance was $2,200. (Median means half owe more and half owe less).

The media likes to report a figure of credit card debt over $8,000 for families, but that figure is arrived at by using “average” rather than “median” figures, the latter being favored by statisticians as the more meaningful.

Interestingly, the majority of US households have no credit card debt. About one quarter of households do not have any credit cards and an additional 30% pay off their balances monthly according to the Federal Reserve.

About 40% of credit card holders carry a balance of less than $1,000. About 15% have card balances in excess of $10,000.

At least one in 10 consumers has more than 10 credit cards in their wallets. The overall average is 4 cards per consumer.

One very serious problem with credit card debt involves folks paying only their minimum payment each month.

Paying a typical 2% minimum of your balance each month barely covers the interest, and leaves very little to apply to your actual balance. That's why, if you owe $2,000 or more, and you only pay the minimum balance of 2% each month, it will take you approximately 30 years to pay off your balance even if you never charge another penny.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007


The top photo shows the station as it existed in December 1998. The background is the blackness of space. The lower photo shows the station in August 2007. This background appears to be scattered clouds over a desert area of Earth. NASA photos.

Here is a web site where you can find the station's orbital information.

Launch the search and you should arrive at NASA’s main space station page.

Click on the upper right box entitled “See the ISS in the Night Sky.”

That will take you to their “Sightings Page”. See the left column and click on the active link “here.”

That will take you to a new panel where “United States” is offered as the default country. Click on “Go to Country” or select another country of your choice.

If you selected and clicked on the US that will return a page listing the US states. Click on your state.

That should give you a large list of towns in your state. Pick your town. If it is not listed, pick the next closest. Even if it is 100 miles distant the results will be fine.
We are looking into space, after all, and whether we see it from Cincinnati or Mansfield the view will be nearly the same.

This last page will return a listing of sightings that will give you columns showing the date and time of the sighting, its duration, its maximum elevation, its direction of approach and direction of departure in degrees above the horizon.

If the duration is short or the elevation is low it may be difficult to see the station because it could be obscured by your horizon. Your results will be most satisfying if the station is going to be 30 degrees or more above the horizon.

Yes, you will be able to stand in your yard and see the station fly by with your naked eye. It will look like a fairly bright star moving across the sky about the speed of a high altitude airliner.

It is visible to you simply because your sky is dark and the station is still traveling in sunlight which it reflects. So, your sightings always will be somewhat after dusk or a bit before dawn.

Bookmark the page—and good hunting!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


The Best American Travel Writing 2002, Frances Mayes, Ed.

As usual, a nice collection of magazine-sized pieces on travel writing in 2002 judged best by this particular editor. I really enjoy travel writing as a delightful, vicarious way to visit places not likely to ever be experienced personally. The problem with this kind of compilation is the pieces usually reflect the editor’s taste in writing style and the book takes on a somewhat bland sameness.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)

Of course you remember the classic scam regarding whitewashing the board fence. Then there is the delectable young Miss Becky Thatcher and the hilarity of the uppity school master getting his comeuppance. It is the definitive tale of childhood along the Mississippi River in the 1800s—very well worth this revisit after likely 50 years or more since the first read.

Partners in Command by Mark Perry

An historical look at Generals George Marshall and Dwight Eisenhower in the conduct of World War II. While not written like an historical textbook it did have its share of tedium. But, for you trivia buffs this book will tell you about the allied invasion of France which ultimately ended the war with Germany and had the code name--Overlord, of course.

Rat by Jerry Langton

A look at this global, eating and reproducing machine that causes incalculable damage to world food supplies and whose control is virtually impossible; even quickly developing immunities to the latest poisons concocted by chemical technology. It’s a fairly light read but, if you are squeamish about such things, you better leave this one on the shelf.

Monday, October 22, 2007


Autumn in the front yard.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


We started that day on a tour of the colored leaves at Malabar Farm but a “cave” exploration turned out to be the highlight of the visit because--most leaves were still green.

On a sandstone ridge far above Louis Bromfield’s “big house” geologic forces over eons have punished the once-again forested landscape. To this day, the power of wind, water and the freeze-thaw cycle continue to inexorably shape the rocky formation.

As we enjoyed a gentle climb to the ridge more and more rock strata punctured the floor of the woods. Here and there a glacial remnant in the form of a huge rock would simply appear among the countless ferns and other under-canopy flora.

As the trail narrows then declines sharply a large black burrow retreats into the gullet of the hill.
As you enter the guts of this rocky formation your eyes adjust and you are rewarded with the sight of a kaleidoscope of moss covered stones which, then, disappear into geologic gloom.

Most rocks are challenging to traverse. Some would crush a house if they moved suddenly.

Darkness inside the damp formation is never absolute. But almost is.

We wiggled carefully over and around the challenging formation feeling our way more than seeing it—often passing warnings to those behind us of protruding obstructions.

Slowly, you find yourself leaning at a backward angle and sliding along the formation with a side-stepping motion while the parallel rock that encapsulates you is in your face.

That is a rock you really hope does not move just now.

Far above you sometimes see daylight through narrow cracks and you realize just how far below you really are.

Finally, the path turns sharply and begins to climb. It’s like dragging yourself over a pile of large rocks in a steeply inclined tunnel which exploded, once upon a time.

Then, the air freshens and with a thankful, final exertion you are once again standing in the silence of the woods.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


Several times recently I have opened an undamaged box of Nabisco Honey Maid Grahams bought at Wal-Mart only to find the product in the individual packages inside the box, heavily damaged.

It appeared as if the crackers had been partially crushed after being sealed in their individual plastic packaging—then placed in the boxes consumers find on store shelves.

Wal-Mart has a long history of squeezing their vendors to the point of near unprofitability so the retail giant can achieve price dominance in the marketplace.

A clever manufacturer could easily attempt to recoup some of that profit by placing damaged, and otherwise unsaleable product, in an undamaged container and shipping it to Wal-Mart for retail sale.

I have no way of testing my observation, but, I have alternated purchases of this product from the local grocer and never experienced the same problem there.

Coincidence? Possibly.


The following comment on this subject was posted on a forum I visit:

“Ask a Native American what happens when you don’t control immigration.”

Ponder that for a moment.

Friday, October 19, 2007

A satin flow of water glides over the crest of Fleming Falls in the top picture. The marvelous stream that feeds the falls (bottom picture) rolls under the twin bridges in front of the camp’s dining hall as another aging camper (middle) ponders her own memories.


It was an intense immersion in nostalgia the day of my recent visit to my childhood church camp. You see, those two, one-week experiences happened about 56 or so years ago.

Imagine a small city boy, then suddenly in woods full of critters with creeks full of pollywogs and trees that were about 5,000 feet tall.

Imagine us around those roaring campfires, being smothered with the legends and lore of this mysterious yet enchanting place.

And, the old craft cabin is up there on the hill just like it was. My favorite project was one of those nifty whistle lanyards we were thrilled to weave out of that brightly colored, flat plastic thread.

And, my old cabin named Tecumseh was still there. Much smaller of course. I could peer in the windows and see the ageless metal bunk beds with sunlight streaming thin rays through the musty air of accommodations closed now for approaching winter.

I remember being able to lay in bed in there and watch the tops of the trees bend to the wind of a growing storm and hear the sudden deluge as rain pummeled the cabin roof and lightening made thunder rattle through a very angry sky.

Later in my visit I crawled along a rocky ledge of creek bank to make another picture and encountered the old concrete dam that used to create our swimming hole down in front of Oneida Hall. The wall remains but has been long breeched by the relentless flow of the stream.

High up on the sandstone rock formation above the Fleming Falls pool I could still see the life-size relief carvings of two human faces said to be of those who owned a mill just above the falls and who were slaughtered by the Indians after a disagreement with those then encroaching settlers from the east.

True? Maybe. But young boys risk much peril, indeed, to question the yarns of wise and all-knowing camp counselors.

I had a small shiver yet as I pondered those memories from long ago.

Then, I chuckled as a small frog plopped into the still water and I wandered on to savor that beautiful fall day—and feeling very thankful I still could, and my old church camp was still there.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Periodically some bozo comes on the radio or TV peddling “...naming a star after someone....”

The pitch continues; for only $54.95 you can give this astonishing gift and have the recipient’s name entered in some book in the US Copyright Office, blah, blah, and blah.

The name will forever be emblazoned on the cosmos courtesy of the international star registry he slobbers.

This is a pathetic scam.

For the 55 bucks the bamboozled purchaser might receive a fancy diploma attesting to his or her astounding, astronomical ascension, or some such nonsense.

That’s worth about 55 cents. Maybe—if you include postage.

Anything dealing with matters of celestial importance is reserved to the International Astronomical Union.

This is from their web site: “The International Astronomical Union (IAU) was founded in 1919. Its mission is to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects through international cooperation....”

This is the real star registry. Their work is not for sale.

Don’t waste your money on the phony one.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Jefferson Township Trustees Mark Gatton (left) and Fritz Ackerman with fiscal officer Dave Taylor conduct the affairs of the township at a recent twice-monthly, regular meeting. In the audience were Peg Mershorn, editor of the Bellville Star and Top Walker, township fire chief. Seated in back were Rob McConkie, township road superintendent and Bernie Hollar, assistant fire chief.


The closer government is to home the better the bang for our tax bucks, and, for we rural folks it doesn’t get any closer than the township hall.

Here is an example: On my recent property tax bill local schools claimed nearly 60 percent of my taxes while the county, township, local health department and the county library system shared the remaining 40 per cent.

For the portion I pay the township in property taxes they maintain my road in the summer, plow my snow in the winter and provide my fire protection, rescue squad and ambulance service.

And, it certainly does not end there.

At the recent meeting I attended, here are some items that crossed their table: A driveway drain pipe matter, some ditch drainage issues, a line of vision complaint, a donation’s dispersal, state funding for road projects, locks for the bicycle trail, tar and chip projects, new fire station completion issues, a public records seminar, road borings by a public utility, new road signs, bridge maintenance, an insurance settlement for a fire truck accident, dump truck maintenance, a contract for snow removal at the fire station and legal questions regarding emergency snow plow drivers.

There are three elected trustees, John Kindt, Fritz Ackerman and Mark Gatton, and, their elected fiscal officer, Dave Taylor.

For the estimated 2,500 folks who live in the township outside the village of Bellville, they are our local government.

Under new business, trustee Ackerman advised his colleague in attendance, trustee Gatton, he, Ackerman, had purchased a pie to support the local schools in their auction at the recent street fair on behalf of the board of trustees. He went on to mention the school group’s "thank you".

With it sometimes being protocol to share such expenditures personally Gatton asked, “What happened to the pie?”

Ackerman confessed. He ate it.

(Fogeyisms later learned the pie did sell for $60 but Gatton was excused from the obligation because they had no prior arrangement for the bidding.)

With that nice bit of bonhomie the meeting was adjourned in about an hour.

Kindt was absent.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Today’s standard of excellence is mediocrity.

(Note: In recent years I have observed a decline in the quality of many products, services, and performance in general. Postings under this title from time to time will explore this hypothesis.)


“Ala. Couple Celebrate 80th Anniversary
Oct 2, 5:25 PM (ET)

SCOTTSBORO, Ala. (AP) – A Scottboro (sic) couple recently celebrated their 80th wedding anniversary, one of the longest marriages among living people when compared to reports in the 2007 Guinness Book of World Records.

Alonzo, 97, and Beulah Sims, 94, celebrated their anniversary....”

“Longest marriages ‘among living people’....”

How can you have a marriage that exists between non-living people?


By the way, the proofreading (sic) above is used to point out a mistake in a quote. Note how they spelled Scottsboro in the dateline different from Scottboro in the body of the story. The version with the second “s” is correct.

They cannot even get the spelling in the name of the town correct.

Our compliments to the celebrants in spite of the lousy journalism.

Monday, October 15, 2007


Wearing its blushing face of fall, a Sumac branch (above--and not the poisonous variety) sparkles under the anointment of a morning’s dew.*

This fungus mimics a toadstool after popping through the needle-covered trail’s surface.

Colorful leaves on a tranquil pool’s veneer are a quiet reflection of the season.
*Posterized with Photoshop.

Sunday, October 14, 2007


The boys down at Slick Freddie’s Pizza Shack on Ogle St. were not too impressed with Al Gore’s recently shared Nobel Prize for environmental work.

Slim even recalled the fact Gore, while belittling Americans to conserve on their consumption of electricity awhile back, lives in a mansion in Tennessee that then used 20 times as much electricity as the average US home.

Bubba asked, “Ain’t that a bit hypocritical?”

Slim whacked Bubba’s high-five with some good-ole-boy enthusiasm.

Bubba was even more surprising when he noted a British High Court in London just ruled “...the ‘apocalyptic vision’ presented in Gore’s film (An Inconvenient Truth) was politically partisan and not an impartial analysis of the science of climate change.”

Bubba added, the judge went on to rule officials could show the film in British schools “on the condition it was accompanied by...guidance notes for teachers to balance Gore’s ‘one-sided’ views.”*

Slim was wide eyed with astonishment at Bubba’s new-found, worldly awareness.

Not to be outdone Slim wondered if this might not boost Gore into joining the herd of contestants in the 2008 presidential race.

Bubba opined, “I ‘spect so,” then went on to remind Slim how Ms. Hillary had slam-dunked Gore when the Clinton’s first occupied the White House by staking her claim on the vice-president’s traditional office space for her own digs and sent Gore and staff packing to the basement.

Bubba added, “Why, that’s about as awful as a-sellin’ bad moonshine to the mother-in-law.”

Slim rolled his eyes and said, “Lez git to the football game.”

*London Times via Foxnews, Oct 11, 2007

Saturday, October 13, 2007


Cousin Dennis Wolf recently shared a high-speed video clip via email.

It reminded me of when I was a photographer at the News Journal and met an engineer from the Tappan Co., who had done his undergraduate degree at MIT with the scientist who helped develop the electronic flash.

He was able to dig out some of his old paraphernalia and we went to work in his basement one evening with some balloons, eggs and a .22 rifle clamped in a vise.

His flash (strobe) was triggered by a microphone lying on the floor and he believed it to have an interval of about 1/1,000,000 of a second.

We hung a string from a rafter directly over a stand where we intended to place our "targets", turned the lights out, opened the camera lens and fired the gun. The sound wave would hit the microphone and trigger the flash, and, we could see the bullet as it was frozen by the extremely short burst of light. So could the camera.

Moving the microphone back and forth on the floor would control the actual place of bullet illumination.

Then, we started shooting eggs, a very messy but extremely interesting experiment. The velocity of the bullets varied, but after awhile we had pictures of the bullet just piercing an egg, inside a cracked egg, and, exiting the other side.

Naturally we were using a solid wood backstop at the rear of our "studio".

Then we used air inflated balloons (water would have exacerbated our growing mess) but bursting them with our strobe-illuminated bullet left us with images of latex disintegrating but the powder inside the balloon still revealing a ghostly inflated shape.

My engineer friend had a very tolerant wife.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The 32 room “Big House” at Malabar Farm (top picture) is reflected in the pond of this early fall day. The new barn is to the right and the visitor’s center is just visible to the far right. An “All Ohio Spin In” was being celebrated in the farm’s barn (below) and plastic bags of animal and plant fiber are in the foreground waiting to be spun into thread by the participants who are keeping this antique practice alive.


Down there, near the end of Pleasant Valley Road are 875 acres of a Richland County treasure.

What we know as Malabar Farm today was started by Pulitzer Prize winning author Louis Bromfield who left Europe as World War II was looming and returned to his native area to pursue his second love; farming.

He was born in Mansfield in 1896 and studied journalism at Columbia University.

“His world stretched from the hills and fields of Pleasant Valley to Paris, India, New York City and Hollywood. He was a cosmopolitan in overalls, a thinker who could enjoy a night of drinks and talk in Mansfield’s old Greystone Bar and a reader who found peace in a library or in the quiet precincts of an abandoned farm,” according to a 1986 News Journal article.

He authored 30 books, a profession that made him wealthy. He returned to Ohio in 1938 and soon built the 32 room “Big House” that anchors the farm to this day.

Actors, writers, musicians, statesmen, the rich, and the plain folks of the neighborhood were made welcome there in those days. In May 1945 Hollywood super-stars Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall were married there.

The aim of Malabar then was to be a showcase of what farming should be. Bromfield would often be working the fields with his tractor as his fleet of beloved boxer dogs roamed the fields nearby while a famous writer or two might be overseeing the cooking in the kitchen.

After his death in 1956 the farm lingered into financial struggles. Then, in August 1972 the state accepted the deed and pledged to preserve the beauty and ecological value of the farm. In 1976 it became an Ohio State Park.

Today it has grown into those 875 acres with 12 miles of hiking and bridal trails. A huge barn was re-built in recent years after the original was destroyed by fire. The new barn is flanked by a charming visitor’s center and gift shop.

A featured annual event is the Ohio Heritage Days Festival in September. Yet this year you can enjoy a Historical Dinner Theater, a Harvest Barn Dance, a Hearthside Cooking Workshop and Candlelight Christmas Tours.

Do yourself a favor, check the details here:

Thursday, October 11, 2007


The Associated Press recently reported the case of a Long Island, NY woman who got the bad news she had breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy, only to be told later the lab had made a mistake and she didn’t have cancer.

Can you imagine that horror?

Unfortunately sloppy medicine is more common that most of us realize.

In my most recent experience at the Mansfield hospital I was sent to their emergency room in 2004 by my employer after a foot injury that caused severe swelling and bruising.

While the attending physician was discussing my follow-up treatment she asked me to verify my phone number from her chart. Then, she recited a number that wasn’t mine. I asked to see the chart. That wasn’t mine either.

Moments later a nurse was discussing my release and she noted I had been diagnosed with a “Left foot sprain/contusion.” The diagnosis was correct but it was my right foot that was injured.

And, just a few weeks ago I was at the local dermatologist’s office for the surgical removal of a skin cancer from my face.

Just before seeing the doctor, the nurse was explaining my procedure to be done on my left chin. Wrong! The cancer was on my right chin.

Then, while lying on the table and after lots of preparatory work the doctor poked around the cancerous area and inquired if I was numb yet. I wasn’t. He had overlooked the numbing injections.

I readily admit the above incidents were minor. But, what if I was unconscious with a serious injury and the physicians couldn’t even keep track of my identity or the location of my wound.

In the case of my recent anesthesia I was partially to blame. The doctor also is a pilot and we were busy swapping yarns.

In the case of the woman with the wrong cancer diagnosis, a state report blamed the mix-up on a technician who admitted cutting corners while labeling tissue specimens.

Nevertheless, it is a very wise patient who pays careful attention to his or her medical procedures, who seeks second opinions in any serious or questionable circumstances, and, who has an assertive advocate acting on his or her behalf if they are incapacitated.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A sample of Ohio trees that turn red in the fall is this Dogwood between my pond and the house. This poor tree was damaged during pond construction but has now grown to nearly obscuring the view of the pond.


“The key to Ohio’s vibrant autumn color season is a combination of long, cool nights and short, sunny days in mid to late September” according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

“Decreasing amounts of sunlight in the fall trigger a chemical change in the leaves of hickory, birch and beech trees that causes them to turn various shades of yellow, brown and orange.

These colors, called carotenoids, were present in the leaves all along, but were hidden by green chlorophylls during the spring and summer.

Additional shades of red and purple, called anthocyanin pigments, develop in late summer in the sap cells of tree leaves that are rich in sugar, including maples, oaks, sweetgums and dogwoods.”

In a nutshell, the green, chlorophyll pigments capture energy from the sun and use it to manufacture simple sugars for the tree’s growth during the summer. We learned to call this process photosynthesis.

In the fall, when the days grow short and the nights cool, trees slow their chlorophyll pigment production and the colorful pigments begin to show through the fading green.

Here’s another interesting fact from the folks at ODNR: Leaves that turn red must have lots of bright sunshine. In fact, if you covered a small section of the leaf before it changes color, the part of the leaf without sunlight will turn yellow while the exposed part turns red.

“With more than 100 species of trees in the state, it’s no wonder Ohio’s fall color season is so spectacular.”

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


This is a time exposure image of the ISS passing over Bellville Friday, October 5th at approximately 8:20 p.m. EDST. The station is about 250 miles above the Earth and is traveling at a speed of some 17,000 mph.

The image was done with a Canon Rebel 400 XTi digital single lens reflex camera and a 17 to 85 mm lens set at its widest viewing angle which is about the equivalent of a 28 mm lens on a 35 mm film camera.

Using the camera’s bulb function the exposure was 62 seconds at F 5.6 at an ISO of 400. Focus was set manually at infinity and I tripped the shutter when the station came into sight and closed the shutter when I was confident it had passed out of the camera’s field of view.

The station was reflecting the sun’s light at a very bright (-) 2.2 magnitude.

The brightest star just above and a bit left of center is Vega in the constellation Lyra. I could not see the star in the viewfinder so I aimed the camera manually knowing the station would track north of Vega on a southwest to northeast course. North is to the bottom of this image and east is to the right.
Remember, there are seven astronauts living and working on the station and it orbits the Earth 17 times each day.

Monday, October 8, 2007


Yup, conifers (a term which describes most of the evergreen trees) have “leaves”. They take the form of needles, of course.

The term “conifer” comes from the fact all conifers produce cones. They are often incorrectly called pinecones since not all conifers that produce cones are true pines.

The cones, also helpful in identifying the tree, are their seeds.

In the above photo you can plainly see conifers shed some of their “leaves” as do deciduous trees at our latitude.

All conifers shed needles. Sometimes the shedding is a slow process but most commonly it occurs all at once in the fall. Because only the oldest needles are shed, the “inner” areas of the tree closer to the trunk become less dense than the outer areas.

As the shedding process begins the needles turn a yellow-brown color. The color change occurs each year, but some years it is more eye-catching.

This photo shows one of my Eastern White Pine trees which was planted as a seedling. It is now about 14 years old.

Like deciduous trees, “leaves” of the conifers can be helpful in identifying the tree. On true pine trees the needles are arranged and attached to the branches in clusters of two (the red pine group), three (the yellow pine group) or five (the white pine group).

If you carefully pluck one of the needle bundles from a branch of this tree and count the needles you will find five of them. The same process with one of my native Scotch Pines will reveal only two needles per bundle.
Source: Iowa State University, Extension News 11/14/2005. Helpful search terms used otherwise were “Conifer Shed Needles”

Sunday, October 7, 2007


US Airlines Post Miserable Records

American, the world’s largest airline, came in as the third worst among the major industry players, with its flights arriving on-time only 63.4 per cent of the time in July 2007, the latest information available.

The entire industry average for July for on-time arrivals was a dismal 69.8 per cent.

The top on-line arrival percentages were posted by Hawaiian and Aloha airlines with figures above 90 per cent. However, those figures are skewed by those airlines operating mostly shorter flights in marvelous Hawaiian weather conditions.

Pinnacle Airlines was behind those two “leaders” with a figure of 78.9 per cent of on-time arrivals giving them the de facto first place for the month.

Reasons for delayed arrivals include; those caused by the carriers themselves, weather, air traffic control, security issues, and other late arriving flights.

Other big carriers such as; United, Northwest, Continental, US Airways and Delta ranged between 65 and 70 percent for on-time arrivals.

For a handy table listing the rankings of all the major players check here: You should be able to click this active link. If not, highlight it and paste it into your favorite search engine.

The airlines have largely hovered in this area of on-time arrival percentages for the last 10 years. They managed to squeak just above an 80 percent on-time arrival average in 2002 and 2003.

So, if you hope to save yourself lots of aggravation with airline travel, you will 1) ship your luggage ahead, and 2) arrange your itinerary with lots of time between connecting flights plus allowing an unscheduled day or two at each end of your journey to absorb any of these pesky, delay fiascos.

Or, check the stage coach schedules.

Saturday, October 6, 2007


The Washington Post recently reported “More than 1 million pieces of luggage were lost, damaged, delayed or pilfered by the US airlines from May to July....(and) June and July ranked among the 20 worst months for mishandled baggage in 20 years.”

“The shoddy service is the crest of five years of steady deterioration in the ability of major airlines to deliver a checked bag,” they continued.

“In 2002, 3.84 reports of mishandled bags were filed per 1,000 passengers. In July, the figure was 7.93,” more than double.

“Frustration has mounted to the point...even a well traveled congressman...(D-Cal) is alleged to have barged screaming into a United Airlines baggage claim Dulles airport and shoved a clerk”. He was charged with misdemeanor assault.

“Analysts say the industry’s problems are not likely to be resolved soon, setting the stage for more aggravations, especially during the (upcoming) holiday travel season.”

Another aggravated traveler said, “They never lose my bags in other countries...Other countries do this (baggage handling) well, but not here.”

“Representatives of a half-dozen airlines noted...though the rate of lost bags is at an historic high, such bags represent only a fraction of the luggage flowing through the system." They claimed, "More than 99 percent of bags are handled properly....”

Meanwhile, a solution is—ship your bags.

A business traveler from California, for example, said he shipped his clothes ahead of him for at least 25 trips last year.

A Fogeyism would assert; that also eliminates the aggravation of dealing with the aggressive Neanderthals at the baggage claim disaster which usually concludes each flight.


Now, if we can just get the airlines to arrive on time more than their current rate of 69 percent for on-time landings. Stop back. We’ll discuss that topic tomorrow.

Friday, October 5, 2007


The home of the Richland County Museum in Lexington is itself of museum status--it was built as the original Lexington School in 1850. (Small picture).

It featured room for grades one through four on the lower floor and grades five to eight upstairs.

Eight grades were enough in those days. By then, students were well enough schooled in English, math and other fundamentals they could be productive citizens in the largely farming society that existed at the time.

Remember, in 1850 Lincoln had yet to be elected US president and the last Indians were just being evicted from Ohio—the Wyandotte’s up near Upper Sandusky.

On the day of my recent visit to the museum I had the pleasure of meeting Elsie Simon, (pictured in red above) a museum volunteer at the tender age of 87, and, it turns out, who was my neighbor when I first moved out to Madison Township in the mid 1950s.

She is also a living history book. She told me about her great grandfather moving to the Lexington area in 1832 and both he and her grandfather served terms on the Lexington school board.

When her great-grand pappy came here Andrew Jackson was president and in the summer of that year the first wagon train crossed the Rocky Mountains through the Wyoming territory’s south pass.

The museum is only open on Sundays 1:30 to 4:30 and will be closing at the end of October. It has two stories of nicely presented artifacts, all donated and all from Richland County.

When you visit take time to get to know the volunteers. You could be in for a real treat!

I certainly was.

Thursday, October 4, 2007


In the Naga’s Wake by Mick O’Shea

This is a vivid tale of the first-ever traverse of the Mekong River from it’s origins in the Himalaya Mountains of Tibet to the South China Sea—in a kayak. The book bulges with graphic descriptions of the thundering river gorges, the outrages of ecological destruction by the Chinese government and the marvelously varied people who live from the Alpine north to the tropical sea. Outstanding!

Crashing Through by Robert Kurson

A mesmerizing story of a 43 year old man, blinded by an explosion at age 3, who regains his sight by stem-cell technology (not the fetal variety). Imagine “seeing” with your hands all those years then being able to see steam but not be able to feel it. How could that be? Or the freckles on his son’s face; same perplexing experience. Readers are taken for a poignant ride through a life’s experience known by precious few human beings in history. Start reading this book—and hang on!

Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell with Patrick Robinson

A piercing look at the super-human training course for US Navy SEALS which will leave your bones hurting, then, it moves to SEAL team action in Afghanistan where SEAL Team #10 and their back-up force suffer the greatest loss in SEAL history as told by a very humble survivor; ultimately awarded the US Navy Cross for combat heroism.

Armed and Dangerous by William Queen

Queen, a former Green Beret and now ATF agent, spins a yarn about the capture of a notorious narcotics trafficker/survivalist in the California mountains. Queen and his co-author, Douglas Century, manage to turn what could have been an explosive adventure into a fairly ho-hum good guy/bad guy read.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Pictured are some of the estimated 25,000 folks who are expected to visit the Prairie Peddler this year near Butler. Son Brian and daughter-in-law Kathy are in the right foreground in gray/blue denim shirts as they wander the picturesque, wooded setting.


It is a crafter’s extravaganza in the hills of rural Richland County near Butler and is celebrating its 20th season with this year’s back-to-back weekends; two days in late September and finishing on October 6th and 7th.

Officials expect more than 25,000 folks to visit the four-day event this year held at the facility’s 130 acre rolling, wooded site.

It is a juried event meaning crafters have to meet rigorous standards in the quality and variety of the products they make and offer for sale.

Each crafter has a booth area which, itself, must meet the style of an old prairie village and crafters themselves are costumed in dress of the old west or even earlier, colonial period.

This year’s show features more than 180 booths with an additional 20 plus vendors of food delights.

Fans also are treated to musical entertainment and craft demonstrations every ½ hour throughout the days.

Top that off with horse-drawn wagon rides, a petting zoo and an opportunity to pan for gold to satisfy your entertainment pallet.

Another popular attraction this year was a live scarecrow which simply lurked quietly near a booth and sent unsuspecting passers-by scurrying off in fits of hilarity enjoyed by both the victims and observers.

Event officials were reluctant to discuss the magnitude of business done during the show but simply multiplying an attendance of 25,000 folks by a conservative guess of each visitor spending an average of, say, $50 and those four days could account for more than 1.25 millions bucks of entrepreneurial commerce.

I noticed tastefully small debit/credit card advertisements in many booths. Since there is very little electrical power either visible or utilized by the vendors I inquired of one exhibitor how they managed to do such modern sales transactions.

She promptly reached under her counter and produced a battery powered, credit card scanner equipped with a keyboard and an antenna, and informed me she simply directed her gadget toward a satellite and had an approved transaction in less than 30 seconds.

And, all this while her colleague stood at his trundle powered lathe and worked on the production of their next, hand-crafted creation.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


Our country was born out of the Revolutionary War between 1775 and 1782.

We finished the job with the British in the War of 1812.

We fought the Mexican-American War from 1846 to 1848.

We fought our own Civil War from 1861 to 1865.

Then there was the Spanish-American War from April to August 1898.

That was followed by World War I from 1914 to 1918.

Then came World War II from Pearl Harbor in 1941 to 1945.

That was followed by the Korean War from 1950 to 1953.

Then it was Vietnam from 1959 to 1975.

Then Desert Storm January 16 to February 27, 1991.

Then came Operation Iraqi Freedom from March 20, 2003 and continuing.

Not to mention military action in Grenada, Panama, Somalia, and Bosnia, for other examples.

And, the Cold War, a chilling face-off during which my generation grew up fearing nuclear annihilation.

I repeat my question: Is war inevitable?

Monday, October 1, 2007


Wood smoke filled the air along with the marvelously antique sounds of a calliope as the threshers celebrated their 53rd annual reunion recently on rural SR 603 near Mifflin.

Paul Ward of Lexington had his Peerless Model Q 1897 vintage, steam powered tractor at the show while Roland Brodbeck from Michigan displayed his 1924 Nichols & Shepherd 20/75 horsepower model which weighed in somewhere near a very hefty 15 tons.

Broadbeck explained the 20 horsepower was the draw bar rating while the tractor could sustain 75 horses worth of power while operating its belt driven accessories. His big machine (pictured above) would be worth between 20,000 and $30,000 on today’s market.

These machines enjoyed their prime years between 1900 and the 1920s on the farms of America.

Wards “Geiser” model tractor cost $1,300 new and takes nearly two hours of boiler firing to reach its 100 pounds of steam pressure necessary for operating.

After sweating over yet another reload of wood in his tractor’s boiler Ward quipped, “Makes one appreciate the internal combustion engine.”

In fact, that is what led to the demise of these delightful brutes of machinery. Farmers of the day quickly adapted to filling the tank with gasoline and turning a key to start their newer model tractors.

Shawn Volz, of Lexington, also was there with his ageless, belt driven hammer mill which was busy making chicken feed out of a generous supply of dried corn on the husk.

He also was showing his collection of “Hit and Miss” engines from the early 1900s. New, these machines ranging from 4 to 8 horsepower, cost between $130 and $220 from the Sears and Roebuck Company.

They still fuss and pop and snort a lot as they lumber along in their role of historical reenactment only occasionally needing a drink of water and a few squirts of oil to keep their moving joints loose.

All in all, the event really is a bunch of boys playing with their antique toys while sharing with appreciative onlookers these amazing machines that bridged the gap between actual horse power and today’s incredibly complex and powerful farm machines.