Category Archives: Outdoors

My Favorite Season

Season of change, when nature redecorates her house.I wake in the morning, about the same time as always, and notice that outside is darker longer than it was only a few short months ago. I get to make a similar observation in the evening as darkness blankets my home like a youngster pulling a wool blanket over his head to keep the monsters at bay.

Most every evening, between 6 and 6:30, I hear the approaching honking of Canada geese coming from, roughly, north. Last night nearly 100 birds appeared over the trees then made a 45-degree turn to the left, the entire chevron bending itself around an invisible post in my neighbor’s yard, until the entire formation was pointed toward the Chesapeake Bay, or maybe Florida.

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It’s time to get out of the way

Weather station on Stock Island, in the Florida Keys.“IThe rain is falling outside my window, and has been, steadily, for three days.

In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott – who in 2015 decreed the phrases “climate change” and “global warming” would not be spoken or printed by state employees, is warning his constituents to prepare for what could well be the worst hurricane since Andrew came ashore in 1992. Residents who are not leaving probably should be, as they brace for an onslaught of wind and water in a county where water already gushes up through its streets with the rising tides, even when the sun is shining.

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A reporter’s look at history

Image the time and effort to bend rock into marble-cake swirl.If I had not decided to be a journalist, I probably would have become a geologist. The only thing that intrigues me more than why people do the things they do, is the length of time this planet has been building the place to do them.

It has been noted by people who calculate such things that if the 4.5 billion years this planet has been a-making were converted to a 24-hour clock, we humans have been here less than five minutes. Sixty-six million years ago, give or take a couple months, what must have looked to the universe to be a small pebble hurtled through the blackness we humans would eventually call “space” and ran into a larger rock circling what humans eventually would call The Sun.

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Whitetails and water

In a blur, a whitetail fawn heads for the safety of the woods.Summer is nigh. Fireflies blink in the tall grass. This year has given us several catbird families — we’ve always had one or two, but never the more than three pair of nesters we’ve seen this year. And a Brown Thrasher has been around this year for the first time, often enough we are pretty sure he has a lover.

One of our daughters picks on us for being old people, sitting around watching birds. I say more of us should do that. It is relaxing.

But Oh! To share the piece of video I did not get this week!

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Play in it to preserve it

Water is not only for drinking and washing dishes.I often tout the idea of getting the kids down to the swimming hole. Let them splash in the creek, and watch the fish and turtles that live in the water and on the shores. Let them flip over rocks and identify some of the larva.

One of the ways biologists determine the quality of water is to check for macroinvertebrates such as May and Stone fly larvae. If the water is too polluted for human consumption, it also will not support the bugs – or the fish that feed on them.

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Perpetually wandering

Robin brings breakfast to the nest.I was chatting, the other day, with a niece about mountain hiking.

“I’d love to hike up a mountain,” I said, “as long as who I hiked with wasn’t in a hurry and loved, or at least liked, mountains.”

“As a spoiler alert, I’m in much less a hurry once I reach the top,” she replied.

Australians, I am told, like to go “on a walkabout.” I prefer to go “on a wander.” “In a hurry” has never been one of my defining traits. I could walk as long and as far as anyone, but almost anyone could beat me in a run. I always figured if where I was going would be gone by the time I got there, so be it.

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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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