Monday, October 31, 2011

It was gloomy as we approached the Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta that dark and rainy morning.

Tendrils of water leaked under the collar and made goosebumps loiter on the spine.

Inside the museum a black tunnel masqueraded as outer space as it moved visitors, one-by-one, through the cosmos, each with thoughts of the celestial abyss.

Suddenly, an apparition joined the quiet parade--a black silhouette of human-like form, staring facelessly while pointing with an extended, left arm.

Instant silence numbed the senses and wisps of cold air coaxed arm hair to rise while shivers assaulted the soul.

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

At the Gorman Nature Center

Naturalist Jan Ferrell (top right) and Sue Brooks share a sunny, Fall afternoon with countless frogs and turtles who were sunning themselves at the nature center's pond during the recent string of terrific weather days.

Below the boardwalk picture they are busy netting an array of aquatic critters at pond's edge.  Tadpoles, snails, diving beetles, bluegills, dragon fly larva, back-swimmers and clams were a few of the near countless creatures in attendance.

All the captives were released, of course, after a brief stay in their enameled, dishpan jail where they could be observed.

In fact, the critters actually won this temporary skirmish when a crawdad awarded a very noticeable pinch to yours truly while the lower photo was being arranged.

That led to some mirthful comments about Sue's fondness for seafood.

The green frog in the bottom photo has a body about three inches long.  He (or she) was very busy doing nothing on this Lilly pad; itself containing a nifty private pond of its own for this froggy visitor's enjoyment.

We paused on our leisurely circuit to munch on the leaf stems of some Sassafras trees along the edge of the center's meadow trails.

What a delightful way to spend an hour or so in salute of nature's seasonal blessings!
Jan Ferrell has appeared on the blog previously in stories dealing with the local bald eagle population, a few blogs on spiders and another nature walk or two.  There is a search box upper left.  Type Jan's name in there and click on the search icon to find all those stories at once.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


This plant, a deciduous shrub from 3-20 feet in size, is an invasive species native to China and Japan.  It was introduced into North America in 1830.

It invades open fields and woodland edges and forms a dense shrub layer which displaces native species.  It spreads by birds dropping the undigested seeds from its bright red berries and will completely close open areas if left unchecked.

Besides it's fairly transparent berries it can be identified by its oblong, crinkled-edge leaves with their dotted and silvery undersides.

We saw dreadful expanses of this plant at the "Wilds" in southeastern Ohio this summer.  It also is being fought at the Gorman Nature Center where volunteers often help eradicate the plant.

Saturday, Fogeyisms will feature a recent visit to the center for a Senior Nature Walk led by naturalist Jan Ferrell.  We hope you will tune in and enjoy our romp across some of their 150 acres.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


A small creek that drains an 80 plus acre watershed into the lagoon on the east side of my pond has suffered heavy siltation over the 18 years since the pond was built. 

This in spite of the fact that stream flows entirely through wooded area with no tillable land between us and its origin.

This sediment build-up has plugged the unrestricted flow of the inlet stream and causes the water to spill over adjacent paths, blocking their maintenance and enjoyable use.

Downed trees, branches and extreme weed growth then exacerbate the problem.

The reedy-type weeds flanking lady-friend Sue Brooks (above) are easily 10 feet or more tall.  Each plant had to be cut by a pair of pruning shears. Their stalks then were accumulated into a hand-sized bundle which was dragged to a nearby compost pile.

Once the path along the old flow line was cleared we shovel-dug the old channel clear of incredibly rich soil and piled it along the little stream's banks to help contain future flow.  Both the cleaned ditch and spoil pile will be sown with grass to help reduce erosion.

About 100 feet of the creek upstream of the work area is unmolested by our cleaning effort and heavy weed growth there will help slow future infiltration.  We hope.

Nature always wins this type of battle, however.  This creek flows through a 30" road culvert so in periods of heavy rain we have a tiny version of the Mississippi River Delta roaring into the lagoon.

At my age I figure it will be someone else's problem the next time it needs cleaned.

Eventually, the lagoon will turn into a bog which itself will turn into tillable land and then new forest in spite of man's comparatively feeble efforts.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Eight of us, all current or past members of the Johnny Appleseed square dance club of Mansfield, enjoyed our continuing hiking odyssey--this time along the Little Miami River just south of Springfield, OH.  That's Rosa Hatfield in the orange coat; author of the quip in the first paragraph of the story.  The massive rock wall in the photo below was a common container for the river valley of our hike. 

At the headwaters of the Little Miami River

Rosa Hatfield had one of the best lines of the weekend when some young hikers passed our group on the trail at Clifton Gorge and noticed all eight of us were carrying hiking sticks.  Rosa quipped, "Folks our age not hiking are usually carrying canes."

The impertinent hikers didn't have a clue.

We launched ourselves from near the Clifton Mill and headed downstream along the Little Miami River where it has chewed itself deeply into the earth's rocky skin since geologic time began to take note of such things.

The river lurched and roared as it cascaded through its often narrow sluice.  It was engorged by recent heavy rains as it hustled down a drop of nearly 130 feet while racing into the developed end of the state park to the west near Yellow Springs.

The stunning geology of the ever-growing river's course and its confining valley of stone massifs often were obscured by the towering trees and lush vegetation.  The area was named a National Scenic River in 1973.

It was sobering to imagine what it was known as by Native Americans.

It's rapids boiled in white froth as the energetic river battled the rock formations for space--a visual clue of the tug of war between an irresistible force and an immovable object.

The upper section of our hiking trail was headed toward another known as the Pittsburgh-Cincinnati Stage Coach Trail.  I don't know where those coaches roamed but it certainly was not on the tortured path adjacent to sites we were passing known as The Narrows, Steamboat Rock or the Blue Hole.

A measured 1.3 miles from the trailhead the river makes a sharp bend and is crossed by a footbridge where we encountered an enthusiastic park naturalist who was pleased with our appreciation of what we had just seen.

As we were at our turning point for that day's hike she confirmed doing the stage coach trail upstream from lower in the park would connect this day's hike from the opposite end and treat us to the best the park had to offer wanderers like us.

Later on our hike the following day, another one measured at 1.3 miles to the turnaround, we confirmed her assessment.  This trek began from a parking area within the park proper and we were highly amused when our first trail marker was an undergarment hanging high on the branch of an old Sycamore tree.

There was considerable humorous speculation about the source of that landmark.

While this section of the hike treated us to some more challenging footwork the river was largely more placid as it continued its journey toward joining the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers on its course to freedom in the Gulf of Mexico.

The group:  Front, L to R; Sue Brooks, Rosa Hatfield, Nancy Meinzer.  Back:  Don Karger, Dick Hatfield, Roberta Karger and Mark Meinzer.  In the small photo, left above, Nancy is enjoying a view common along the upper level of the first day's hike where water boils through the narrow rock confines--often far below the trail level.

(Remember, clicking your mouse on the photos should treat you to a larger view.)

Thursday, October 20, 2011


The mill is one of the largest water-powered grist mill buildings still in existence.  A Revolutionary War soldier built the first mill at this site in 1802.  During the War of 1812 the mill processed grain to feed the troops.

That mill burned in 1821 and the present building was built on the old foundation.  During the 1800s 16 mills were located in the Clifton area.  This is the only one still in operation as a business.

Other mills of that time harnessed the Little Miami River's power to saw lumber.  Some produced woolen goods; others produced paper.  From 1908 to 1938 this mill provided electricity to local residents at the rate of $2 monthly for businesses and $1 monthly for private homes.

The river forms east of Clifton after several local streams combine their energy.  Their collective power is then amplified as it flows through the constricted gorge the river itself created over geologic time.

Clifton's industrial era ended when the then, new railroad was built through Yellow Springs instead of Clifton.  Cholera came to the village in 1849 killing half its residents and half the survivors were inspired to leave town for good yet, most of the town's original buildings remain.

Today's mill building operates mostly as a restaurant and gift shop.  Our hike along the gorge (which will be featured in Saturday's blog story) concluded in late afternoon so we hoped to celebrate that day's end with dinner there.

It was not the kind of dining experience that encourages return visits.

Our group found the dinner menu both quite limited in selections and pricey.  Several of us preferred just a salad and that was not an allowed choice.  One wanted just a grilled cheese sandwich.  That also was not available.

She noted an egg and cheese item on the breakfast menu which was available all day and asked for one of those without the egg.  The waitress was not enthused with her sense of humor.

Consequently, we were left with the breakfast offerings for our evening meal choices.  My French toast was delightful and another companion's pan cakes could have been cut in half and there would still have been plenty to take home for another meal or two.

Regardless, it is not likely we will be back there for an evening meal anytime soon.

But, beyond launching a delightful hike nearby in the Clifton Gorge, the mill also is a visual treat at Christmas time when the buildings and surrounding trees are illuminated by a bazillion lights.  Maybe more.

That alone could be worth a trip to this tiny town just a few miles south of Springfield.
The power of the river's flowing water was harnessed when it spun a water wheel like the one in the small photo upper left.  That wheel is partially visible outside the window in the lower photo--far above the river's surface.  It is quite likely this wheel was installed just for demonstration or landscape purposes.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

In the Cuyahoga Valley National Park

A whitetail deer munching on the bank of the Cuyahoga River caused a burp in our ride through this Autumn-dappled park on one of Fall's recent streak of dazzling weather days.

Nancy and Mark Meinzer and Sue Brooks are on the towpath (above) flanked by the Cuyahoga River on the left and residual traces of the Ohio-Erie Canal on the right.

From this natural solitude it is hard to imagine the chaos of Cleveland just 15 miles or so downstream.

Later we stopped to watch four young muskrats enjoying the still waters of the historic canal while painted turtles celebrated the season's waning warmth on log perches in the still waters--everywhere.

That's Mark in the Breksville Station (small photo) pondering the cut-away view of a canal boat representing those that drove the state's commerce in the nearby waterways of the 1800s.

Cuyahoga means "crooked river" in the language of the Iroquois and defines this watercourse that flows 22 miles through 33,000 acres of national park between Akron and Cleveland.

A few restored locks--but most of the crumbling variety--dot the old canal course along with evidence of an aqueduct here an there that once transfused the system with navigable water.

That's a close-up peek of the Cuyahoga (right) where water trickles through rapids which dump at right angles into the main foreground channel.  A slow shutter speed smooths the roaring stream into visual satin.

My riding companions (below) rumble across several hundred yards of boardwalk spanning a marshy area north of Peninsula while Ohio Turnpike traffic sizzles silently across the towering bridge top right.

Brooding over the Blitzkrieg of super-highway traffic between us and home it was easy to dream of cycling this southbound course and meandering another 75 miles or so through Ohio's tranquil woodlands to the solitude of my tiny piece of rural, Richland County. 

Monday, October 17, 2011


Saturday, October 15, 2011

A female mantis is significantly larger than her male counterpart  as shown above in this year's mating season.  Note their presence in a field of goldenrod, their favorite habitat.  (All photos courtesy of Mark Meinzer)


These remarkable critters got their common name because of the manner in which they hold the upper part of their bodies with their large front legs as if in a prayerful attitude.  They have a truly striking appearance when seen fluttering through the air, or simply loitering around the weeds, often a goldenrod, waiting patiently for their usually insect prey to come within reach.

With stunning speed they will grab their next meal in those forearms equipped with spiny-like appendages to securely grasp their meal while they dispatch it by biting off its head.

The females also are well known to deliver similar treatment to their mates during the reproductive act which usually occurs in September and October.

This story was launched when my square dancing friend and retired engineer from the phone company, Mark Meinzer, told me about his abundant population of these critters.  That led to a census of my acreage which turned up, well, nothing.

Turns out Mark has had a life-long fascination with these critters and several years ago met a vendor at a Kingwood Center flower sale that had a jug full of praying mantis "nests"  for sale.  He bought several and seeded a 1/2 acre of his "Alpine" setting which he and wife Nancy manage for wildlife habitat.

By fall of that year he began seeing the mantises on his property and has seen them every year since.  Three years ago they had their best census ever.  He and his grandchildren counted 67 of the critters on one pass through the field.

That same year in November he removed over 60 of the "nests" from his field and stored them over winter in a refrigerator, to protect them from predation, then distributed them around the property the following Spring.

In autumn females lay their annual generation of eggs in a frothy, gummy cluster about an inch long which drys and glues itself to tree twigs, plant stems etc.  There, the eggs will overwinter and tiny nymphs will emerge from the egg mass in the Spring or early summer.

During mating season, Mark notes, the females will attract multiple males; all of which will be found on her back at the same time.  The most males Mark has observed at one time is five.

They are not an endangered species nor protected by federal or state law; both common misconceptions.

By helping control other insects they are highly beneficial and they do not bite humans.  If you handle one, however, you could receive a sharp pinch from their powerful forearms.
Wise folks will enjoy observing them in the wild while practicing the often good advice, "Look but don't touch"!

At least three male mantises are mating with this female (top left) while the female in the lower right photo appears to be pondering her next meal, starting with the head of the male on her back.  Regardless, both will die naturally with the approach of the following winter.

For an OSU Extension Fact Sheet, click here!

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Square dancing friend Nancy Meinzer did these photos of a hummingbird moth several years ago feeding on garden phlox wildflowers growing at their wildlife habitat-abundant, southern Richland County home.

Saturday, Fogeyisms will take a peek at another interesting critter that lives at the Meinzer place; praying mantises which are there bountifully because of husband Mark's critter husbandry.  Nancy is a computer programmer and Mark is a retired engineer from the phone company as well as an award-winning cultivator of dahlias and an enthusiastic amateur photographer.

Nancy's photos were done with a Canon Power Shot, point and shoot digital camera while Mark did his work with a Canon Rebel T2i, digital single lens reflex camera.  Mark's photos will be featured Saturday.  

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Lost in Shangri-La
by Mitchell Zuckoff

This is a true story of three American service people who survive a plane crash deep in the mountainous, interior jungle of New Guinea in 1945.  Twenty one of their companions died in the crash.  Their crash site put them between the enemy Japanese and head-hunting jungle tribes, the latter living like they had in the Stone Age.  This is a marvelous, historical narrative, the story of their adventure and the most incredible rescue mission of World War II.  Do yourself a favor and read this one.  It will not take long.

Red on Red by Edward Conlon

This, the author's debut novel, is an articulate and penetrating look at life as a New York City detective--which he is.  Joseph Wambaugh, a seasoned and successful "cop story" author said, "...this is the cop novel for everyone who reads books."  I whole-heartily agree!

Jihad Joe by J. M. Berger

The sub-title describes this offering thusly:  "Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam."  Frankly, I got about 100 pages into this book and quit.  It is a distressing topic about Americans who have volunteered for battle in the name of Islam but it trundled through the topic like that history teacher whose class it has been easy for you to forget.

Up Country by Nelson DeMille

I have yet to encounter a DeMille offering I did not like.  A lot.  This one takes you back to the Viet Nam War with a veteran who later became a career military cop and is assigned a clandestine investigation that romps from Saigon to Hanoi.  Some reads are hard to put down.  This is one of them.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Today's Standard of Excellence is Mediocrity

Ford Motor Company in late September put out a recall notice for their 2000, F-150 pick-up trucks. 

They advised us one or both fuel tank straps could fail due to corrosion.

They warned us the tank could fall to the ground and there is a potential for fire.

They went on to say, "Please call your dealer without delay and request a service date."

The local dealer said the parts involved are not available.

"Call back in November sometime," the lady chirped on the phone.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Play at Malabar Farm

Phoebe (Wise) coaches Louie (Bromfield) into a collective after-life (above) where they present a lively review of the famous, local author's storied life.  They shared snippets of on-stage conversation then drifted into the shadows (of death) and witnessed the portrayal of the scene they just discussed.  Repeatedly and masterfully.

Carl Hunnell was riotous as George, Bromfield's secretary.

Stunning theater tradition was upheld by Amy Stoner, Gabriella Sanchez, Mary Ann Calhoun and Ryan Glass; all of whom stepped-in to their roles after the program was printed--Stoner (as Bromfield's wife) with barely a day's notice.

Imagine that!

The play was punctuated by film-clips of Bromfield's life including one outstanding creation where the play's cast portrayed itself in the "antique aged" black and white film.

Kudos by the bushel to local Author and Director Mark Sebastian Jordan for bringing this bubbling evening of entertainment to the neighborhood stage.

The play will continue tonight, and October 14. 15 and 16th in the barn at Malabar Farm.  It is a fund-raising event and your $36 ticket includes a BBQ dinner, house tour and the 2-act play.

You will get more than your money's worth!  A lot more.
Malabar Farm

Lady friend Sue Brooks (above) enjoys an excursion thru the Smucker Brand Showcase Store just south of the company's factory in Orville, OH.  To get there take US 30 east from Wooster about 8 miles, turn north in Riceland on State route 57 and the store is about 1/4 mile north on the east side. 

Treat yourself to a treat

The Smucker company got its start about the time the Lincoln Highway was headed toward the drawing board.  In 1897 Jerome Smucker opened a cider mill in Orville and soon produced a by-product; apple butter.

By 1900 he and his son were selling apple butter from the back of a horse drawn wagon.  The production and sale of jellies and preserves began in 1923 and by 1942 they did their first shipment to a national customer on the west coast.

Those yummy toppings we like to spoon on our ice cream arrived in 1948.

Today, their spiffy retail outlet which opened in 1999 is chock full of Smucker products as well as samples of other brands they have acquired, like Jif peanut butter, for example. 

See their web site here!

This photo was done of a display of colorful jars on their retail store's rear wall, visible in the top photo under the corporate banner.  The geometric streaks were caused by zooming the lens during a modestly long exposure of 1/10 second, f/22, ISO 400.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Today’s standard of excellence is mediocrity.


We encountered this dilly of a road construction sign while on our Lincoln Highway excursion recently.  It was located on a Wayne County road project just east of Dalton, OH.

Someone ordered this sign and likely sent a written request to their sign shop where someone processed that request then sent it on to the shop floor where some supervisor likely assigned the job to a worker who made the sign then sent it back to the office for distribution to the ordering department where it was received and placed into inventory for the shop supervisor to distribute to the road repair supervisor who gave it to a worker to install on this road project.

How is it possible that many people missed this glaring error...

...unless, of course, mediocrity truly is today's standard of performance.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


For years I wondered how the Wooster area was able to support two nifty, barn-style eateries; this one and The Barn Restaurant between Wooster and Smithville.

Now I know that isn't the case.

I made that discovery as we turned toward home from our recent excursion on the Lincoln Highway in the eastern part of Ohio.

This particular barn, while it has a gourmet lunch "Granary",  is mostly a barn-sized shop of fine furnishings and gifts....unique gifts sufficient for your lifetime of presents-pleasure.  ...with a staff of five interior designers  ...and multiple levels of display space in their fully restored 1868 barn.  ...and a year 'round Christmas shop.   ...and a floral shop located in the barn's atrium.

Can you tell I liked the place?

Curious, click here for their web site. 


Saturday, October 1, 2011

On the Lincoln Highway

My sense of history tingled as Sue and I pondered the above stretch of the Lincoln Highway (LH) about mid-way between East Canton and Minerva.  Notice both the original brick pavers and the width of the "highway" compared to the modern automobiles.

The current highway seems to exist in three phases. the earliest being the brick pavers, the second being the old routing which has turned into secondary back roads and the third being modern, four lane highway which often has been built on top of the original alignment.

There are only short and fragmented sections of the original brick surface remaining.  Some of the old alignment even has reverted to private ownership.

Imagine!  About 100 years ago there was no paved road across the United States.

A vehicle trip across the country then would take about 60 days; 90 days if difficulties were encountered.

The first cross country drive was done in 1903.  In 1911 the president of the Packard Motor Car Company, Henry Joy, and his chief engineer decided to drive west from Detroit to test his new automobile.  At Omaha they asked a Packard dealer for directions west.

The dealer got in a car and led them a bit west where they encountered a wire, ranch fence.  "Just take the fence down and drive on," he said.  "When you get to the next fence take that down and go on again."

"A little further," Joy said, "...there were no fences...nothing but two ruts across the prairie."

The proclamation honoring Lincoln and launching the new route was released in September 1913.

One history describes the Pennsylvania Turnpike in 1940 becoming the ultimate by-pass of the original LH; "...the original roads becoming faint traces in the woods, their secrets fading into the bramble."

Following the original highway alignment today is a challenge.  The nifty red, white and blue markers with the big "L" in the middle are only as prominent and numerous as local volunteers have the capacity to maintain them.

In our area they are abundant.  Over near East Liverpool they are virtually non existent.

We drove the oldest alignment we could find; route 430 and County Road 30 to Wooster, for example.  From there to east of Canton it was a combination of four lane highway and old segments like Lincoln Way East from Wooster for awhile.

There is an original segment through Dalton but even part of it was under construction when we passed by.  A little east of there you can take route 172 through Massillon, Canton and East Canton where you will rejoin the old, 2 lane US 30.

That alternates with old segments and modern 4 lanes on to East Liverpool.  We managed to cross the Newell Bridge over the Ohio River in E. Liverpool (toll 75 cents) which was one of two ways the highway arrived in Ohio from the east.

The other headed north in West Virginia crossing into Pennsylvania where it joined State Route 39 back into Ohio.  We tried that but were baffled by the absence of adequate signs and wound up recrossing the Ohio River via US 30.

We bounced through East Liverpool's version of streets and headed back on Ohio 267, the old alignment toward Lisbon where we unloaded at our motel, had dinner at a marvelous local restaurant, Pondi's, then waited for darkness so we could do the photos of the diner in the original story of this series.

Pondi's, by the way, was established in 1916 at this very same location with Aunt Anne Pondi selling burgers on the front porch of her home.  Today's restaurant is an addition to that very house and still is going strong.  Stop there for a bite and you will know why.

We returned to Mansfield the following day mostly via the modern US 30 with a stop at Smucker's retail shop south of Orville, lunch in Wooster, then the Pine Tree Barn, not on the LH but certainly worth a peek.

The bronze casting in the small photo above right is on a building being refurbished in downtown Lisbon.  Note it tells of Lincoln's secretary of war having a law practice in this very building. (Remember to click on that image for a larger view).  The LH route through downtown Canton is shown above.

While preparing to launch our exploration of the highway in western Ohio we poked around the Mansfield area a bit more and made the delightful discovery of this segment of original brick pavement on Windsor Rd.  Windsor Rd., wyes off US 42 near Laver Rd., northeast of Mansfield and rejoins US 42 about one mile northeast of the Richland/Ashland county line.  This small section of brick surface is in Ashland County.

Note the sign shows the dates of 1913-1928.  The original alignment of the LH left Wooster and went to Ashland via what is now US 250 then rejoined route 30 via US 42 in Mansfield.  Windsor Rd., was route 42 in those days, likely bypassing the swampy area near the county line.

Today's LH alignment between Mansfield and Wooster began after 1928 and followed what we now know as route 430 and County Rd., 30 A through Mifflin, Hayesville, Jeromesville, etc. until it was replaced by the modern US 30; now a four-lane highway.