Category Archives: Outdoors

Mice in the kitchen

Robin brings breakfast to the nest.The mouse traps were empty when I slid out of bed to check. I’m glad.

I know about disease vectors and the bother of the little critters nibbling into the sleeves of saltines crackers, leaving a carpet of tiny black pellets on the pantry shelf. But, really, they don’t eat much.

I lived for awhile in a cabin in a wood. On a winter evening, we would watched a tiny critter appear on one side of the living room, scurry around the top edge of the tongue-and-groove knotty pine sheathing to the pantry – where he (or she) – knew a tube of Ritz crackers waited. He took one, then retraced his path to his family.

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A message to Garcia

Turn right at the stop. If you're in the creek, you missed it.We were chatting over breakfast about that bridge in Atlanta that collapsed, closing a part of Interstate 85. One of the guys wondered whether that affected I-75, so we Googled the news reports, and were treated to detailed instructions such as:

From Peachtree, take the Cheshire Bridge Road, under Lindbergh Drive – or was it over Lindbergh Drive, under the Cheshire Bridge and across Peachtree … there were a bunch of other streets and roads mentioned. All of them, probably, of significance to the locals. If I were headed to Atlanta in the next week or so, I believe I would head somewhere else.

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“War on coal” ends, water is the new target

Coal train exits a mountain tunnel near Hometown, PA.I woke early Tuesday morning, to the sound of July thunder, and the splattering of humungous raindrops on the roof above my pillow. In my childhood memories, the lake ice is becoming unsafe to walk on. Soon it will turn to crystals that tinkle in the waves of a light spring breeze. One morning soon, the first loon of the year will issue the celebratory call announcing open water.

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The fever is breaking

The most recent real snowstorm - Feb. 2014.The field was beautiful during the night of the “Blizzard of ’17.” White light suffused the forest, almost as though under a full moon, but without shadows from the leafless trees, making the very air seem to glow. In another life, on a night like that, I would have sallied forth with a snowthrower and cleared the half-mile between the hard road and my house, the snow muting the machine’s rumble, making the walk through the timber feel like virtual reality with the sound turned off.

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Mother nature’s sending a message

Orchardists begin to worry when the seasons skip the freezing winter.This spring was a record-breaking season for attendance at the annual Mount Hope Maple Madness, held at Camp Eder, on Mount Hope Road, Hamiltonban Township. The event was staged by Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve, an environmental education facility a short distance from Camp Eder.

Folks from miles around showed up to learn about maple syrup making, and to enjoy some of the sweet, sticky nectar on hot pancakes.

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States’ Rights an unsettling question

Kayaking on a creek.While many of us have been quibbling over the details of our Distracter-in-Chief’s latest tweet – or more recently, his sudden lack of early morning digital shouts to his public – most of us are, for various reasons, not paying much attention to some of the more important edicts he has, with less fanfare, issued and will continue to issue. It’s not that what he is doing is secret; too many of us are simply not paying attention.

When Scott Pruitt was made head of the Environmental Protection Agency, we understood on some level that he would like to abolish the agency, and there was media commentary noting the incongruity of placing in charge the guy who had mounted 14 lawsuits to block the his new subordinates from doing what their name seem to indicate they should be doing.

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Flying in formation

Snow geese in flight.I saw something last weekend I’d never seen off television. Tens of thousands of Snow geese covered a rather large pond near Kleinfeltersville, occasionally lifting off en masse to create a low cloud of white over the water. The birds were enroute their Arctic birthing grounds.

At rest, they virtually blanketed large portions of the pond, mostly paddling around in small circles filling the air with a sound like hundreds of playing puppies. Here and there, a pair would actually move from one side of the crowd to another, but mostly they stayed where they landed.

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It seems like magic

Daisy the Calico cat, beside a camera, watching the back year.Someone else’s cat lies on my desk while I’m working, if you can call what I am doing – admiring a calico cat – work. Her chest moves up and down, drawing in oxygen and pushing out carbon dioxide. At one end, her eyes peer out of almost closed slits. At the other, eight inches of soft furry tail wave slowly, its tip articulating like bait, though I have no idea what she wants to attract. Maybe she’s flirting with the human.

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A childhood dream

The Greatest Show on Earth fades, with its elephants, into history.When I was in Fifth Grade, our class trip was to see The Greatest Show on Earth – the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. I don’t recall many details of the excursion, but the fact of it obviously has stuck with me.

Many years later, one of my first dates with my now wife was to the Kelly-Miller circus in Littlestown. It was not three-ring, but it was impressive, especially the part after the show when two-year-old granddaughter got to ride an “el-da-dan” – known as an elephant to adults with more practice saying the word. Once you’ve seen a picture of one of those large gray circus animals with tails on both ends, you have pretty much seen them all.

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While the king tweets unsweetly

Spider walking on waterA few of us had a rather nice conversation on Facebook, of all places, the other evening. One could follow the discussion and read what each said and know which side each was on. We kept talking. The participants were respectful, though in agreement not so much.

Many of us are well acquainted with the “anonymous rant” some social media conversations take – someone, sometimes with an obviously assumed name, makes some oft-heard unsupported (and oft times unsupportable) statement about one presidential candidate or the other, a few people gang up with the first and for most observers it becomes a shouting match. When the shouting starts, the listening stops.

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Finishing the job

Our many wondrous advances count for naught if we leave cleanup for our grandkids.At the tender age of about 10, I got my first lesson on the subject of cleaning up after oneself. We’d gone to visit Gramma and Grampa in Watertown, Mass., a little way out of Boston. I always liked visiting their home, a really old-fashioned place with a parlor – a small room off the living room, home to a couple of rocking chairs no one actually sat in. In fact, the big set of double French doors to the parlor was rarely not closed.

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The clear plastic box

A lot of unknowns lie on the other end of the tunnel.We visited Las Vegas several years ago. What a show that was! The city is the nation’s monument to decadence. Over here the Eiffel Tower, there a monorail, way up there a rooftop roller coaster, and everywhere the sound of one-armed bandits joyfully slurping coinage, occasionally giving back just enough to keep the gamblers gambling.

One of the highlights was Siegfried & Roy, a magical duo who could make lions and elephants disappear in front of your eyes. We were lucky enough to get seats in the pits at the front of the stage. Imagine sitting there ooh-ing at the show when suddenly you turn your head to be staring into the face of a small jungle “demon.”

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Thanks for everything

The wind was blowing strongly but invisibly when we arrived at the breakfast place. Later, our morning hunger sated, we exited the establishment into a wind speckled with seeds of the impending season.

Not enough to whiten the grass, but snow, nonetheless. For my part of the planet, four days before Thanksgiving is early, even for snow that does not stick.

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Environmental Prognostication

Chesapeake Bay Watershed sign on I-70.Seasonal weather finally is upon us, maybe. Temperatures should be in the 40 F range, and they’re often in the 60s, but last year this time they were in the 80s, so I suppose it is a bit more seasonal. The juncos, looking like flying preachers in their white shirts and dark gray capes, have returned. Nearly all the other “snowbirds” – what northerners who move south for the winter are called – have departed for what they hope are warmer climes.

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Going, Going …

Fall foliage nearly gone from South MountainFall, as I have previously mentioned, is my favorite season. Spring is bathed in beautiful pastels, summer is a fine time for swimming in a creek, and winter offers superb excuse for curling up inside with a few of those books one intended to read four months ago. But fall – that season of glorious arborous fireworks, celebrating successful end to another trip around the sun, is, as has been said, da bomb.

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Matter of perspective

Fossil fuel pipelineAs I sit watching the water flow downhill, the news is reporting Standing Rock Sioux Americans confronting police in an effort to block a 1,170-mile, $4 billion pipeline being built across land the tribes-people consider sacred, and across a river that is a water source for several million people.

President Obama said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – responsible for at least one of the pipeline’s required permits – is looking at a way to reroute the pipeline, but he has to know the company will fight that, citing the cost of the pipe it already has rushed to lay as it tries to outrun any potentially successful efforts to change the already expensive project..

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Changing seasons

A dozen wind turbines on a Fall colored horizon.The end is near, the calendar says, though physical evidence offers some argument. Summer inexorably withdraws southward, following the Canada geese to their winter abode, but the lawn still needs periodic cutting.

We returned from a two-week road trip to the sound of a cricket holding forth from among the stones. It was an unexpected sound for mid-October. Temperatures the past few days have been in the 80s that should be at least 20 degrees lower, breaking records for highs set in 1908. Marsh Creek is shallower than it should be this time of year. Rain near the end of September raised the creek some, but a friend reports a boulder that is usually submerged all winter is about 18 inches exposed.

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Sea Change

The Atlantic Ocean incessantly wears away the U.S. coast.The sky brightens as though on a timer announcing 6 a.m. The sun isn’t really up, yet, but its warming rays are bending over the horizon, illuminating the knotty pine boards of the bedroom loft’s western wall.

The rain has finally tired, leaving only the sound of incessant wave action rubbing away at the shore with the soft-sounding, powerful strokes of a woodworker rubbing the surface of a boat’s wooden molding. The smoothness of the sound belies the power peeling layer after layer of ancient minerals and stirring them into the sea.

Somewhere to my south, a hurricane threatens to submerge Miami, Florida.

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