Category Archives: Environment

Odometers, unpaved roads, and tire wear

Her eight sensors strategically plugged into the web, Ms. Spider awaits the arrival of dinner.Some people try to turn back their odometers. Not me. I want people to know why I look this way. I’ve traveled a long way, and some of the roads weren’t paved.” Will Rogers said that, and I agree. I have invested a considerable portion of my travels searching out unpaved roads. Or at least roads less traveled.
Continue reading

Moving “stuff”

I would rather be finding vernal ponds in in late summer.What is it with the female of our species that, when she is overcome with  a special kind of ambition that can only be satisfied by cleaning up piles of “stuff” collected by her mate.

It happened a week or so ago with my spouse. She suddenly decided the garage needed reorganizing. Translation: Seek out piles of stuff of questionable future need. Either it goes to my heirs, the recycling center, or placed on one of those flea-market apps that might get other collectors to pay money for my junk.

Continue reading

What will we leave them?

The iconic trees of northern PA have been removed but their roots, and the pathways between them, remain.While too many of us are focused on the latest Trumpian tweets, there is at least one Election Day contest worthy of note right here at home. There are several of them, actually, but our gubernatorial contest is a good example of the choices we face as we move toward handing the Commonwealth to our grandkids.

Continue reading

Paint the parking lots

Hot pavement boils water, fries eggs and burns bare feet.More than 30 years ago, a college professor told his class pavement was partially – and considerably – responsible for warming the planet. Every time two-lane country roads are widened to federal specifications – from two barely 8-foot travel lanes bracketed by gravel berms to 12-foot travel lanes and 8-foot breakdown lanes – the local temperature increased by a few degrees. And with every new shopping center, with accompanying blacktopped parking lot, the local temperature jumps some more.

Continue reading

A near-record memory

The fish seemed almost as big as my brother.Long before trolling had anything to do with an Internet that had not yet been invented, Dad loved to troll the lake in front of our home in a 16-foot boat with a 5.5-horsepower Chris-Craft motor idled back to provide only enough power to steer the boat.

On any normal summer Sunday morning, while Mom and kids were at church in town, Dad would be in his pew at the back of the Skowhegan boat, puffing Phillip Morris cigarettes and communing with the fish.

A successful session would end with him racing the boat toward home, carving a big sweeping circle in front of our home before cutting the power and coasting up to the dock, holding up a togue — Mainer for lake trout — destined for the evening dinner table.

That day, we were trolling along, he commanding me occasionally to be still because the fish could hear every time I shifted my foot (though apparently fish could not hear the motor, or the waves slapping against the side of the boat).

Continue reading

Some of our family died last week

Observations on the human condition.A set of glass panels hang in the Newseum in Washington, D.C. etched with the names of 2,323 journalists killed around the world while doing their jobs, some in accident of war, some deliberately target, like the five Capital Gazette reporters slaughtered last week for no more reason than they were doing their jobs.

Continue reading

While you were attending to other matters …

Crude oil spilled into the Yellowstone River coats a flock of Canada Geese.Melania Trumps jacket was, one must admit, a bit tacky. She wore it to see the refugee kids, but her jacket said she didn’t really care – didn’t care about what was left unclear. But she definitely made an impression. The First Lady and her sartorial splendor had starring roles on at least two days news cycles, plus late night television comedy and talk shows.

Continue reading

Build it, and the storms will wash it away

Storm clouds sliding over southern PA farmland.Build it and they will come.”

Daughter rendered the verdict upon discovering our back yard is home to a family of Eastern Bluebirds, another of English House Sparrows, and a third of House wrens. And those are only the ones occupying houses we have set out for their use. There also are American Robins and Northern Cardinals, a ton of blue jays and an equal number of Goldfinches. We also have hung several feeders, which we keep supplied with mixed birdseed, and another screened version filled with thistle seed.

Continue reading

Smoke on the mountain

Naturally or manmade, fires will happen.On a recent wander through a portion of Michaux State Forest, I found the road winding around a large parcel of blackened ground and trees. The question arose what good the burn, clearly a controlled burn of which I had read, would do for the wildlife that lived there. So I asked Fire Forester Philip Bietsch to explain the process.

Continue reading

On backroads driving slowly

Still hidden after all these yeas.Another week has passed and Mr. and Mrs. Bluebird are still hanging around. He has built a new nest, in a different bluebird house mounted about 12 feet from my window. I presume it’s the same pair that nested in the house farther out – before the English House Sparrow evicted the Blues family. The Blues have yet to lay any more eggs.

Continue reading

The world is alive …

Daddy cardinal feeds his son.Every spring I sit mesmerized as, in the space of just a few days, the mass of quarter-inch buds inexorably spread their petals in a real-time slow motion exposition of pink and white four-petaled flowers, each bloom more than two inches across.

The petals will shortly fall off, leaving behind next years buds, and life goes on.

Continue reading

A Hope-ful story

On becoming a scientist.I sometimes receive emails, and now and then a letter, from readers who say they like what I write. Recently, a reader sent a book that was extra special because it related a story near to my heart.

“Lab Girl: A story of trees, science and love,” by Hope Jahren, is a memoir of a woman who became a scientist before women could be scientists. She was born into a scientific family. Her dad taught introductory physics and earth science in a community college in Minnesota. Hope got to hang out in her father’s laboratory, where she “played beneath the chemical benches until I was tall enough to play on them.”

Continue reading

Who will clean up after us?

Great Blue Heron and Canada Geese like the river, but parts are becoming risky for life.I watched a movie Tuesday night, along with more than 100 of my closest friends, many of whom I’d never previously met. It was about global warming, and about a preacher and his daughter and their disagreement over whether our home planet really is getting dangerously warmer.

Continue reading