Author Archives: John

And the best pie is

Under construction, the winning pie?I often compare where I live now to where I was raised. Both places are rural, mostly agricultural, and growing, which is not all a good thing, but on balance, better than some alternatives.

On the other hand, a friend used to maintain that he was glad for cities and the people who lived in them. There are things he likes that can only be produced in cities, and he was glad he could go fetch those things and return home. Continue reading

Sunrise on Muscongus Bay

Sunrise over the eastern shore of Muscongus Bay.At 6:30, more or less, each morning, the eastern horizon becomes a strata of pink and orange as the sun glows, then rises over the peninsula that defines the eastern boundary of Muscongus Bay. Within an hour, Ol’ Sol has risen midway from the horizon, turned the thin cloud stratus a translucent oyster white, and burned a widening path like a celestial version of the earth-bound lobster boats that leave their wakes across the bay. Continue reading

It’s not only the turtles …

It's more than turtles ingesting throwaway plastic.“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.” – from “My First Summer in the Sierra” by John Muir.

We often treat waste and recycling as issues distinct from the items contained within the packaging. Especially the plastic bubble that allows us to see the product, and is such a bother to remove when we get it home.

I bought a package of stainless steel straws the other day. They came, with a brush to clean them, in a plastic shrink-wrap I needed a sharp knife to cut open. The plastic, devoid of a recycling label, went in the trash. When we buy something, we also pay for the non-recycleable packaging we toss in our trash. In afterthought, I reckoned I should have left the waste at the store. Continue reading

Call us by our names

Honey bee pollinates a sedum bloom.Summer is nearly done, according to the calendar, the sun and the flowers no longer surrounding my abode. The Resident Decorator has busily been removing weeds and dead stems.

Trees are beginning to give up their leaves – their annual purpose accomplished, oxygen replenished, shade given, water cooled to provide comfortable abode for trout and minnows – to carpet the earth with next spring’s mulch. Continue reading

Searching for Marsh Creek

The map says Marsh Creek starts about here.Marsh Creek was around long before David Pfoutz showed up. That was 1791, when the 22-year-old arrived in the area of Marsh and Little Marsh creeks.

He built a fulling mill – fulling being the last step in preparing wool fabric for making clothing – near the confluence of Little Marsh and Marsh creeks. It was one of three mills between the head of Little Marsh Creek and its intersection with Marsh Creek. Continue reading

Patience, Grasshopper

Patience reveals treasures for both the hawk and those who attempt to observe it in action.My first notice of the Red-tailed hawk was when it came out of nowhere and perched in a tree at the edge of a farm pasture. I got the camera on it and grabbed one shot before it launched to the far side of the field, to perch atop a fence post at least 100 yards away from where I sat.

After a short time, the raptor relaunched and sailed, a foot or so off the ground to another post; it quickly dove from the post and glided low over the grass, talons extended, in what turned out to be a failed attempt at dinner and then, obviously frustrated, flew to an adjoining pasture. I know the feeling of knowing whatever I’m seeking isn’t going to be found where I’m looking. Continue reading

It’s a privilege

It is a privilege to walk trails where ancestors walked passed.The legal description of the 50-acres of wooded shore front my parents owned noted a huge boulder at one edge and a brook at the other. The watercourse was called Smelt Brook because every spring the smelt – anchovy-size minnows used mostly for bait to catch larger fish – would run into it to spawn.

Fisherfolk from town would show up, as well, and that’s the crux of this tale. They would bring their beer and build small campfires next to the creek, and be sociable. The smelt ran at night when kids my age were supposed to be in bed, so dad and his long-handled, fine-webbed smelting net attended the party alone.

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The reason peaches ripen in summer

Summer also is a time for outdoor farm markets.There’s a reason peaches ripen in summer.

Winter is too cold to eat them outdoors, which is assuredly the best place to sample them when they’re slurpy ripe. Each bite dribbles down the chin and stains the shirt with sugar-laden syrup.

Those suede-clad yellow and orange orbs are best sampled outdoors where a person can bend slightly forward, allowing the excess to drip on the ground, sweetening the day for ants and other creatures we would rather not invite into our abode. (They will come in anyway, come winter, but mostly they’ll remain invisible.) Continue reading

Race to inner space

A potential future marine biologist gets the feel of stream gravel up close and personal.SpaceX. Amazon. Virgin. NASA. All are organizations competing in humanity’s race to the stars. First the moon, then Mars, then …

The previous Space Race – the one that started with Pres. John F. Kennedy and ended with retirement of the space shuttle program, engendered interest in people who had previously no idea of traveling even across the next state, much less the next planet. Continue reading

Creeks can be excellent swimming holes

A Marsh Creek crawdad sits for a portrait.California was home for three years in the early 1970s and one of my favorite places was Los Padres National Forest. What made it particularly great was a stream about a quarter-mile from the camping area we used. The stream cut through the rocks, revealing about a 20-foot drop from the clifftop to the water, and what seemed like about the same below the surface. At least, I never hit bottom. Continue reading

Road trip and new tech

There are interesting things to see when one looks around.Driving the 500 miles to my son’s home is almost half the fun of visiting. I enjoy driving, and the Pennsylvania Turnpike west of Breezewood is beautiful road – long uphills and down, plenty of curves and vistas where one can look across the mountains rounded from eons of wind and rain wearing them down. They say those mountains once were taller than the Alps. Which makes me wonder: Continue reading

Swamps are good

Wetlands are nature's filtration systems.Most of us know them as yucky places that’ll suck your feet off if you go wading there. Lots of really neat creatures live there, though maybe it’s best to stay in the boat, or at least on the high, relatively dry, ground, when one goes exploring. Along with bullfrogs and, maybe, Ivory Billed woodpeckers, there exist, in some of the larger examples, rare turtles and alligators. Continue reading

An honored genealogy

The tiny bee is probably a columnist, pollinating the garden's discussion.The news should be about the facts. There is no room for opinion. So say many news consumers, many of whom are dedicated watchers of Fox and MSNBC.

I attended a conference last weekend in Buffalo, NY, with a bunch of columnists to learn stuff about our changing craft, and to mingle some. Along the way, several awards were presented. Continue reading

I’ve got pictures

Grabbing bugs from the local maple.Somehow, the forest seems to have a much richer appearance this year than normal, like a photograph shot with color saturation selected to Vivid. A friend suggested it’s because of all the rain we have been experiencing. If this keeps up, apples peaches and other fruit should be larger and juicer than normal, as well. Continue reading

A couple of heavy boards

Like a tide that only rises, the Atlantic Ocean is claiming beachfront humans one thought they owned.Water. We human mammals – those of us born without fins, anyway – spend nine months in a balloon full of the stuff, plotting our escape, then spend much of our air-breathing lives trying to at least live next to it. We pay a premium for housing as close to it as we can to a stream, lake or ocean and post signs around it announcing our success to those who must settle for looking out their front windows at our back doors.

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The greatest show on Earth

Families of Canada geese gather in a village to raise their offspring.I finally photographed my first Osprey. He came up from a creek, across the corn field where I stood trying to grab some pictures of Red-winged Blackbirds.

I wonder what he thought of the stranger standing alongside the road. He had seen humans, sometimes walking, sometimes driving a tractor, carving rows in the soil.

Continue reading