No More Tears

George the Seagull pretends to not care while plotting his thievery..Coming up on a year ago, I visited an eye doctor. I was constantly crying. My eyes would not stop with the waterworks.

He told me the problem was I was not making tears, which was irritating my eyes, which was making them water like Marsh Creek after that rain we had at the end of July. He prescribed eye drops that would make me make tears so my eyes wouldn’t be irritated so they would not, well, make tears.Read more

There’s nothing there

A section of boardwalk carries hikers across a wetland on a public trail across private land.When I was about to retire from the Navy and move back to where I was raised, folks often would ask why I would want to move to the north woods.

“There’s nothing there,” they almost uniformly pronounced.

Bingo!

Well, not quite but, relatively, close.Read more

Magic of travel outdoors

The coast of Maine is like very old chocolate, raged where it's broken off.Outside my window, the sky is falling. That’s what we say when the clouds, over-encumbered by wind, temperature and moisture, fall to the ground in large torrents of, usually, vertical rivers.

Meanwhile, flocks of eiders bounce in the waves, drifting upwind and down, occasionally diving, presumably for snacks, much as I dive for a box of Triscuits or a handful of grapes. We’re not so much different, the ducks and me.Read more

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.Read more

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.Read more

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.

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Protect the trees, protect the water

Middle (left) and Swamp creeks surroundng Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve, are designated Exceptonal Value creeks.Monday morning, the Secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources cut a ribbon making a 560-acre parcel abutting Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve an access to Michaux State Forest. The move was a good one.Read more

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.Read more

Wandering upon a kid

The finest kind of Sunday afternoon.“Your belly’s fat,” the youngster observed. “You having a baby?”

“Nope, I answered. “But I have been working on that a long time.”

The kid’s name was Haven; he was five years old, and learning to use his powers of observation. How does one complain about that?Read more

Singing in the rain

Two fisherfolk in the rain, waiting for the storm.I sometimes imagine being inside a downpour to be like sitting on the control deck of the Millenium Falcon, racing through some of those multi-colored masses of gases I’ve seen from the Hubble space telescope.Read more

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).Read more

Risky Business

Black bear in Michaux sneaking up on the cameraI have a trailcam, a camera you strap to a tree in the woods and record what comes by. It is a pretty cool way of staking out an observation point without actually having to sit there for three weeks — which is how long the camera was in it’s most recent position.Read more

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.Read more

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.Read more

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.Read more

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.Read more

Bluebirds vs Sparrows

Even in too-early spring, the House Sparrows fight off intruders.Saturday morning I saw something amazing.

We have been trying to get a pair of bluebirds to take up housekeeping in a bluebird house in our backyard. The trouble is, we have been unable to convince the House Sparrows that cloud the local air to give the Blues family a chance.Read more

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.Read more

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.”Read more

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