Tuesday, April 29, 2008

SPRING ALONG THE TRAILS—

A hand-sized wildflower bouquet of Bluets twinkles in celebration of spring along Flanegan’s Trail at the south edge of my property.





The woods appears to grow greener by the hour as this Maple leaf bud shows rapid growth in these pictures taken April 22nd (left) and April 25th.






Early morning dew drops become sparkling jewels on freshly grown spring grass.



And,

the premier

delicacy

of the

spring woods,

a Morel Mushroom.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


Malabar Farm naturalist, Lisa Durham leads a contingent of visitors on a “Wildflower Walk” held recently at the farm. My friends Jenny Lezak, right rear, and Birdie Moore, next left, and I joined about two dozen other folks on this popular, annual event.

A BLOOMIN’ GOOD TIME—

If you walked really quietly in Malabar Farm’s marshy lowland—Shhhhhh—you could almost hear the spring wildflowers flexing their organic muscles and popping skyward through the warming soil.

Naturalist Durham led our half of the day’s visitors; stopping frequently, as she did when she knelt and prodded the soil gently with her pencil and popped the sub-surface tuber of a Cutleaf Toothwort plant into view.

“Here, taste this,” she said as she passed around the smaller-than-cashew shaped tuber which crunched like a carrot and tasted a bit like mild horseradish. “It’s very nourishing” she exuded as several of us tip-toed into the adventure of edible wildflowers.

Another sparkling example of Malabar’s early spring is the native Bloodroot with the delightful white petals sprayed around its delicate yellow center (pictured right)

The suffix “...wort” on many wildflowers does not denote a bumpy skin blemish. It is simply a Saxon word for “Plant” she noted.

“And over there is a Trout Lily,” she said (pictured bottom) as a delicate and small yellow blossom splashed its spring color on the drab, decaying leaf background. Its green leaves were mottled by a dark hue of spots—not unlike, well, a trout; the fish variety.

Up near the farm’s “caverns” we were treated to delightful groupings of Dutchman’s Breeches (pictured right lower) That’s along the “...Butternut Trail—which, by the way, we have no idea where this trail name came from—we do not have any Butternut Trees,” she mused.

This delicate little plant with the perky blossoms that do indeed, resemble a Dutchman’s britches, suffers with the scientific name “Dicentra cucullaria” for those of you with scholarly instincts.

I enjoyed learning the name of the wildflower “Spring Beauty” a quarter-sized plant with five white petals delicately striped in shades of purple or pink. I see them in abundance on my hilly, wooded trails.

I also have lots of Touch-Me-Nots, known as Jewel Weed but I did not know the word “Jewel” comes from the tiny drops of water or dew that commonly form on the two dime-sized leaves that first emerge in the springtime.

One of my favorites the Trillium—Ohio’s official wildflower—was just beginning to appear with its readily identifiable leaves soon to be adorned with the plant’s distinctive white, three-petal blossoms.

Lisa provided the visitors with a sheet entitled Ohio Spring Wildflowers. It lists 25 families which contain 56 different varieties of these visual delights of springtime.

She also recommended Newcomes Wildflower Guide as a dandy reference, field book for those of you who might be really curious.
____________________________________________
Click here for the Malabar Farm State Park home page: http://www.malabarfarm.org/

Trout Lilly or Dogtooth Violet

Thursday, April 24, 2008


My friends Jenny Lezak and Birdie Moore, both of Mansfield, stop for some photography work during a “Wildflower Walk” held recently at Malabar Farm State Park. In the lower photo, that’s yours truly getting really, closely involved in the work of blog photography. (Photo by Jenny Lezak)

Please join us Saturday for a story and more pictures of this annual salute to Spring.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SON CRAIG—

I was thinking of you as I lurked behind the log pile and did this picture of a Painted Turtle climbing out of the lagoon’s chilled water to enjoy the warmth of the spring sunshine. You always have loved the great outdoors, and, while your disability has caused some challenges I really hope you and your bride can accomplish your dreams.

--Love Dad

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


HERONS ON THE NEST—

The above nesting pair of Great Blue Herons has begun its spring duties in a stately Sycamore tree—clearly visible from the kitchen window of Bob Squires’ and Renee’s place high above the Clear Fork Branch of the Mohican River near Bellville.

According to Wikipedia these delightfully gangly birds will lay two—sometimes as many as 6—eggs in their carefully constructed nest of tree branches, not unlike those of the area Eagles. Incubation takes 28 days and both parents will feed the young a regurgitated version of their primarily fish diet.

Although the common name is Rookery for a group of heron nests the formal name is Herony. Bob says this site had nearly two dozen nests before neighbors logged the area.

The birds can stand more than 4 feet tall with a wing span nearing 6 feet and range from North to South America including the West Indies and Galapagos Islands of Darwin fame.

While fish are the primary diet, the birds enjoy a widely varying source of foods including rodents like Chipmunks—the consumption of which I personally observed with astonishment one day along the shore of my pond.
______________________
Note: the small ball shaped objects visible in both pictures are last year's seed pods of the Sycamore tree.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


HAPPY BIRTHDAY DEB--

In my version of honoring the tradition of young ladies refusing to reveal their age—I am pleased to say Happy Birthday to good friend Deb Fink. Since lots of mutual friends celebrated the occasion at the local AMVETS post Saturday I doubt she will be annoyed that I share the event—the 50th of its kind--with a much larger audience.

Saturday, April 19, 2008




















General public visitors enjoy a visit (top left) to the huge Warren Rupp Observatory telescope recently at Hidden Hollow Camp south of Mansfield. Kim Balliett (top right) uses a computer monitor to help maintain the observatory scope’s alignment while treating visitors to the eyepiece views of Saturn (insert below).

An array of astronomy club and private telescopes (lower photo) are available for public enjoyment the first Saturday of each month at the Observatory on Possum Run Rd.


STARRY SKIES--

There is an astronomical observatory high on the ridge occupied by Hidden Hollow Camp south of Mansfield.

Where there are sounds of children squealing with the delight of camp activities in the daytime, darkness often brings library-like quiet and a deep red ambiance from subdued lighting in the area of the telescopes.

An array of portable telescopes sprouts on the paved observing area, seeming to pop up at dusk like metallic mushrooms—all being fussed over by a squadron of local astronomers, fine tuning the instruments for the evening’s viewing.

Presiding over this activity is the Warren Rupp Observatory’s two-storey dome which houses their instrument sporting a giant, 31” mirror; one of the largest telescopes in the world operated by amateur astronomers.

It is an 18 foot long behemoth that requires a telescoping man-lift to hoist observers to the elevation of the scope’s eyepiece.

When I took my ride Richland Astronomical Society member Kim Balliett was operating the lift in near total darkness—her silhouette sparkling from the red light of the computer monitor displaying a chart of the night sky and helping maintain precise alignment of the scope on the sky’s celestial delights.

Barb Hubal of the RAS, sporting a comical starry-night hat, told the general public visitors, many objects being viewed that night located in deep space are thousands or even millions of light-years away from our Earth.

“That means the light we are seeing tonight left that galaxy thousands or millions of years ago,” she remarked to the attentive group of guests.

I was reminded of my own private viewing of the naked-eye visible Andromeda Galaxy which is about 2 ¼ million light years away.

Light travels at 186,000 miles per second. At that speed it takes light from Andromeda 2 ¼ million years to reach us.

Looking at that galaxy in the summer sky the viewer is actually looking back in time.

It is difficult to wrap the human mind around clear comprehension of such things.

But, the folks at the observatory will give you a good boost in that direction.
__________________________________________
The RAS holds public viewing nights the first Saturday of each month and lots of nifty information is available on their web site here: http://www.wro.org/

Friday, April 18, 2008

A watchful Bald Eagle maintains alertness on their lofty nest while its mate tends to housekeeping duties. You can just see the second eagle’s white head below the tail of the bird in the foreground.

MAJESTIC BIRDS ON AN ENCHANTING DAY--

It was one of those delicious days that comes along only once in awhile.

Lynn and I started out yesterday with our version of a safari to the eagle nest along the South edge of the Clear Fork Reservoir. The temperature was climbing into the comfort zone under snappy blue sky, and the light breeze kissed the blossoming leaves that seemed to grow greener as we hiked the shoreline trail.

Then, high above and just ahead we could see two adult eagles fussing in their nest. Lynn savored her binocular view while I attached my camera to the telescope. A bit later one bird flew west—in search of lunch we guessed—while the other settled down to incubation chores.

After an hour or so of idyllic observation and shooting an occasional picture, we prepared to leave for lunch and I replaced the camera with the telescope’s eyepiece for a final peek, and to our amazement, the greater magnification brought the head of a chick roaring into view.

The wind fluffed its downy head and a miniature eagle’s beak could hardly contain a frisky tongue that seemed to be saying “...where’s lunch for me?”

We left, hoping the absent parent would return soon from a successful fishing trip.

Then, after our quick lunch at the local custard stand, Lynn and I saddled up the bicycles and decided to hit the somewhat hilly country roads south of Lexington.

My companion for the day was Lynn Rush, a long-time friend from the local bicycle club, who, by the way, did a winter-time bicycling jaunt of some 30 days riding the 1,100 miles from San Francisco to San Diego to Phoenix, AZ.

Along our biking way we met several friends, rode just over 18 miles and had a sizzling coast of 35 mph down an aptly named KINGs Corners Road hill.

We both also like to stop to smell the roses and were treated to watching a small squadron of geese frolic with a blue heron in a local river while a mink scurried from shore to shore like it was late for an appointment.

On another stream I was describing a Belted King Fisher that had flown into our view when it did exactly what I was describing and dove some 50 feet from its perch and splashed in the middle of the stream. Then, in its version of Phoenix Rising, it magically launched itself airborne from below the water’s surface.

A few hours passed quickly on a warm spring day. While my legs protested the hill climbs, the rest of me enjoyed the rural splendor of our beautiful county while we eased into those marvelous nooks and crannies where Mother Nature reveals her magic when humans simply spend a little effort and take a look.

Thanks Lynn.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


A HEAVENLY EXPERIENCE—

The Richland Astronomical Society has its home base at the Warren Rupp Observatory in southern Richland County. Stop by Saturday and enjoy an illustrated story on our visit to their public viewing nights which are held the first Saturday of each month during favorable weather. It is truly an out-of-this-world experience!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008



COMMENTERRY--

Here’s a news story that makes my blood boil!

Earlier this month two teenagers forced their way into the home of 92 year old and wheelchair bound veteran, Burr Robbins (left) in Keystone Heights, FL.

They easily overpowered Robbins, bound his hands with electrical tape and terrorized the man; ransacking his home over a period of two hours, First Coast TV News of Jacksonville reports.

The feisty Robbins told news people “...it would have been a far different story if he’d been 50 years younger.”

Robbins said he was more worried about his faithful companion, Midnight.

“Thank God the little dog wasn’t hurt. I’ve had her 14 years and she’s my heart and soul,” he said.

This week local police announced the arrest of 18 year old Calvin Thomas (right), also of Keystone Heights, who has reportedly confessed to the crime.

I know. I KNOW—innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

But, my heart says they should lock this scum and his accomplice in the local veteran's post for about two hours.

There likely would not be any reason after that to waste much tax money on a trial.

Then, simply toss any remains they can find into the local dumpster.

Society also would benefit by an improvement in the gene pool.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

BOOK REPORTS—

Stone Cold by David Baldacci

A whipsaw ride through the clandestine side of Washington DC with more plot twists than curves in a bowl of fresh cooked spaghetti noodles. You’ll need a scorecard and still have trouble keeping track of the players. Nevertheless, it was Baldacci at his usual high velocity.


Lincoln and Douglas by Allen C. Guelzo

Fifty pages of notes support this author’s scholarly tome on the famous debates that grappled with the question of freedom or slavery and the very definition of what our Constitutional Democracy should be. Lincoln “won” the seven debates but lost the state senate election of 1858 in Illinois on which the debates were centered. Two years later he won an even bigger election—the US Presidency. A great read; if you are a research historian.


Rome and Jerusalem by Martin Goodman

I have long wondered why, since antiquity, people around the world have often hated Jews. I thought I might find a clue to that answer in this book sub-titled The Clash of Ancient Civilizations. Then after trundling through about 200 pages of this read I did an internet search on “Why People Hate Jews” and, presto, my answer in countless forms. Made me regard this book as like asking a fellow what time it is and he begins to tell you how to manufacturer a watch.


Way Off the Road by Bill Geist

Geist, a commentator for CBS News, sub-titles his offering Discovering the Peculiar Charms of Small-Town America; an apt description of this delightful read. He takes brief peeks at: …a Minnesota town so small its parade stands still and the population walks around it. …an Alabama town where airline passengers’ lost luggage winds up—by the semi-truckload. …an Oklahoma town that hosts the World Championships of Cow Chip Throwing. And, a couple dozen more just like these. A fun book.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


JOHNDEEREVILLE, USA; GIL STYLE--

My friend Gil Thomas has a John Deere bedroom at his house--with an attached John Deere bath, of course. That’s Gil in his basement, mini-museum above.

John Deere--as in those green and yellow tractors seen all over US farm fields. And, his rooms are not only adorned with farm implements they glow in the corporate green and yellow colors on the bedspread, throw rugs, the toilet seat, the shower curtain, some dishware and a jillion other collectible products.

It started about 8 years ago when Gil received a “Precision” model tractor as a gift; which his wrench-twisting, good nature found quite attractive. You see, he is a very mechanically inclined and happily retired truck driver with 31 years of pavement pounding, over-the-road experience.

Today those two rooms bristle with well over 200 pieces of authentic and licensed JD paraphernalia.

And, there is more sprinkled elsewhere throughout the house. But the collection has grown and shrunk as it has matured over the years. Once it included more than 450 of those rubber tire ashtrays alone.

“Yes, I am downsizing,” he claimed. But, you just bought two new models I reminded him. His wife Sharon giggled mischievously at my gentle challenge to his questionable claim.

He figures his collection might have a value of several thousand dollars. He then admitted he also has four big and two little, real tractors out in the barn.

He’s downsizing there too. He once had seven of those real, grown up machines.

That downsizing began after one of the family matriarchs once asked him what he could do with seven tractors he couldn’t do with just one.

That produced a guilty smirk on his face as he turned his attention back to that first precision model.

“Look here” he smiled, “these chains are real and that is an actual wiring harness on the engine.”

Very valid observations of an experienced and fulfilled collector I noted.

“Wanna’ see some of my knife collection,” he grinned.

Thursday, April 10, 2008






LOTS
OF
JOHN
DEERE
STUFF--

Here’s the John Deere potty room beside the John Deere bedroom at my friend Gil Thomas’ home. Chances are good if you have ever seen a John Deere collectible Gil has or has had one in his mini-museum. Stop by Saturday and we will share more of his lively story.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

MY HYPOTHESIS--

Today’s standard of excellence is mediocrity.

A recent Associated Press story posed the following question about an Allegan, MI grade schooler: “Is fifth-grader Kenton Stufflebeam smarter than the Smithsonian?

Here is what happened. Student Stufflebeam was visiting the fabled national museum with his family when he noticed a bold sign in the museum which mistakenly identified the Precambrian as an era.

The word “era” according to Dictionary.com means; “...Geology. A major division of geologic time composed of a number of periods.”

It has a beginning and often an ending.

The word “Precambrian” is a dimensionless unit of time, which embraces all the time between the origin of Earth and the beginning of the Cambrian Period, explains AP.

In short, the highly esteemed museum was wrong--and has been since that sign was erected 27 years ago.

This was not really a very big deal until I read further: The AP concluded--excited as he was to receive a letter from museum officials acknowledging the student was correct the youngster had to point out his letter was addressed to Kenton “Slufflebeam”.

In “Allegany” Michigan.

This kind of pathetic sloppiness does not even rise to the level of mediocrity when the perpetrator is a grand institution--of now somewhat tarnished--national pride.

Cheers to young Stufflebeam. Jeers to the Smithsonian.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

COMMENTERRY—

A barrel of political pork!

According to Citizens Against Government Waste our congress critters last year spent 17.2 billion dollars on their annual barrel of “pork” in the fiscal year ending September 30, 2007 MSNBC News, among many others, recently reported.

The “pork” projects tallied by the watchdog group had to: 1) Serve only a local interest, 2) Were not requested by an executive branch department, and 3) were not the subject of any congressional hearings—which means simply, the money for them was handed out without public scrutiny.

Regarding the three leading presidential candidates, Slick Willie Clinton’s consort led that group hands-down with her own stash of $296 million bucks in government tax dollar give-aways. Her rival Obama crossed the line with a paltry $97 million by comparison.

Across the political aisle, Senator McCain was guilty of squandering absolutely zero dollars in this annual raid on the public treasury.

The folks at Wikipedia describe this practice thusly: “Pork barrel politics refers to government spending that is intended to benefit constituents of a politician in return for their political support, either in the form of campaign contributions or votes.”

Regarding such political largess, one crusty old politico once remarked, “A billion here and a billion there and pretty soon you are talking about real money”. Some folks my age will remember that gravelly-voiced US Senator named Dirksen.

Of course, another tragedy here is American voters absolutely love it when their congress critter dumps a barrel of vote purchasing money in their own back yard, but, regard it as disgusting waste when it happens in some other precinct.

Lordy, aren’t I past the age where I should even be pondering political felonies like this.

Saturday, April 5, 2008


Shipwreck enthusiasts crowded the community room of the Bellville library recently for a presentation by Nautical Historians and divers Mike and Georgann Wachter of Avon Lake, OH.

LAKE ERIE; A WATERY GRAVEYARD--

The highest concentration of shipwrecks per square mile in the world exists in our very own neighboring body of water--Lake Erie.

There are 1,750 known wrecks of commercial vessels over 50 feet in length—a figure that completely ignores the sinking of smaller, private watercraft.

Even more stunning is the fact only 300 of those sunk vessels have been found.

“The largest loss of life in a single, Lake Erie sinking occurred in 1850 when the G.P. Griffith, a passenger vessel, burned and sank with the loss of 290 lives,” explained Mike Wachter during a recent presentation at the Bellville library with his wife Georgann, historical enthusiasts and divers from Avon Lake, OH.

Their rapid-fire, he said/she said, hour long presentation neatly chronicled this morbid history on our lake which is the next to smallest of the Great Lakes with an average depth of a mere 55 feet and just 210 feet at its maximum.

But, its relative shallowness of depth means a passing storm can quickly stir its surface to frothing, nautical mayhem.

The Wachter’s interesting presentation stirred memories of my earliest Coast Guard experience in Charlevoix, Michigan, where, just after my arrival there from recruit training, the ore boat Carl D. Bradley sank nearby in a violent Lake Michigan storm on November 18, 1958.

I was promptly assigned to near constant duty in our watch-tower and manned the station radio and log book during the search and rescue operation. There were 35 men on the Bradley. Two survived.

The Bradley was then the largest, self-unloading ore carrier on the Great Lakes at 623 feet in length and with a 65 foot beam. Waves during that storm were estimated at 30 feet in the 65 mph winds.

To put her size in perspective, had the Bradley sunk in Lake Erie and laid on her side, her opposite gunwale would be sticking 10 feet above the surface of Erie’s average depth!

Photos of the wreckage, submerged in over 300 feet of water, prove the vessel broke in half on the surface before sinking quickly. Her bow and stern could have been hoisted by the towering waves leaving her mid-ships section hovering over the trough of those monster waves—thus breaking her back.

While my experience was not on Lake Erie, it certainly brought to real life the stories shared by the Wachters.

They have authored three books on “Erie Wrecks…” and their web site is here: http://www.eriewrecks.com/.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

SHIPWRECKS ON THE LAKE--



Saturday we feature a story on the shipwrecks of Lake Erie as told by Mike and Georgann Wachter, divers and historians from Avon Lake, OH. That’s Mike (left) during the couple’s recent, illustrated presentation at the Bellville Library.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

MY HYPOTHESIS--

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.)

Recently I bought from Kohl’s department store a product called “20 Magnetic Refrigerator Frames...Clear Acrylic” no less!

Perfect, I thought—wrongly—for displaying some of those miscellaneous prints lying around the house.

The magnets on these things are so cheap the frames drift around the refrigerator door like they have been coated in goose grease by their manufacturer Fetco Home D├ęcor.

And, unless all your pictures happen to be in the vertical format, the prints slide out of the frames without generous application of transparent tape.

Doesn’t anybody test this junk before they foist it upon the consumer?

Shame on you Kohl’s and whoever in the heck Fetco is!