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.
The ice is gone from my favorite paddling pond. There’s a saying from somewhere in my past that 75 percent of Earth is covered with water. Clearly, the saying goes, God intended for man to spend thrice the time fishing as working. It’s probably closer to 70 percent, but the point is well made.
About 97 percent of the planet’s water is ocean saltwater. Of the three percent that is freshwater, nearly three-quarters is trapped in polar ice and glaciers, leaving about two percent drinkable.
When I first saw the rock pile, through a couple hundred yards of sparse mountain hardwood, it looked as though the boulder had been stacked atop a section of bedrock. I wondered how it got there.
Mud that had become home to swamp plants was compressed into anthracite coal, to be mined several million years later by Irish laborers.
I knew it was not from glacial action. Between 2.5 million years and about 12,000 years ago, glaciers made multiple forays over North America. Some scientist believe that, left to its own devices, another Ice Age could occur, though we humans seem to be doing an excellent job of keeping the heat turned up.
Most of the color is gone along the creek, save some chicory-like bushes with red berries, and the occasional pin oak (I think). One crimson-plated youngster, an American Chestnut, maybe, or a Chestnut Oak or even a Big Tooth Aspen, stands alone among lesser, already nude specimens.
Though I spent my childhood years wandering through the thousands of wooded acres around my parents’ home, I am only beginning to recognize the trees by their leaves. I can tell by the bark, but I never paid much attention to leaf forms, satisfying myself with being amazed merely by the diversity of shapes and shades.
A few years ago, we turned out a large portion of the wastrels in the state legislature. We The People were nearly uniformly unhappy with lawmakers who had, in the dark of night, given themselves a payraise.
Unfortunately for the majority that does not vote, we too often have government by minority rule.
In the district of my home, our representative seemed to have a different excuse for each audience. He voted for it because he couldn’t stop it, he said. Besides, judges deserved a long-overdue payraise. He deserved a raise to pay for his lawyering education which, he said – after 12 years of being, by his own admission, essentially legislatively useless – would make him more effective representative of his district.
In 2005, the Susquehanna River was listed by American Bassmaster magazine as one of the top five smallmouth bass fisheries in the United States. No longer.
Young smallmouth bass have, for the past several years, been displaying spots, lesions and decreasing populations – though the problem’s severity depends on who is describing it. Some sportsmen who earn their livings guiding and supplying fisher folk on the river acknowledge the bass are in substantial decline, and what once was a world class fishery is threatened, but insist the river remains a safe waterbody for recreation and sport fishing.
Young smallmouth are experiencing a seven percent mortality, Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission Director John Arway told attendees at a Susquehanna Summit last week in Lewisburg, “The big bass are still there – the problem is, the small bass aren’t there.” (Additional remarks by Arway in video at the end of this piece.)
A few years ago, a friend and I took a week in Colorado, driving through the back roads of the Rockies, generally following one of our favorite country music artists – and premiere writer of environmental songs – on what we termed “The Ultimate San Juan Oddysey.” The trip took us above the tree line, to long defunct silver mines, historic avalanche sites, Silverton (via the Durango and Rio Grande narrow gauge railroad), and Black Bear Road, (“You don’t have to be crazy to drive this here road, but it helps.”).
Rain had fallen in the overnight, and the piece of low-lying forest through which I wandered was mostly wetland, at the edge of a cattail-filled meadow. Beneath my hiking shoes the path was cushioned – not soggy, but like a carpet with a nice sponge under it. Ahead of me – he’s always ahead of me – Grady the Golden Retriever kept looking back to be sure I was following. If I stop, he’ll come back to me. If I reverse direction, he’ll come jogging past to take the lead on the new course.
I could tell you where this shot was taken, but that would spoil half the fun. If you know, give yourself 10 points. If you don’t, go take a drive in Adams County, PA, find it and then take your 10 points. (I’m really a generous scorer.)
Thing is, I enjoy history. Not book stuff, but real wander-around-in-it history.
A recent thread about sidewalk cafés in Philadelphia reminded me of a thread I’ve followed many years in the town where I live – making a portion of downtown pedestrian-only. The idea benefits everyone who shops, works and even breathes in the burg that tries it.
It’s a hard sell, though. We Americans have a long independent streak.
(This column was first published on Rock The Capital, Oct. 21, 2011.)
It is said that that much of the county in which I live is only 30-45 days away from drought. The land beneath the houses and pavement is nearly solid – compacted dried clay virtually incapable of storing water.
We turn on our tap and water issues forth, which we use to drink, wash ourselves and our dishes, and flush away our waste. Most of us remain unconcerned about how long that sequence will continue.
In 1998, one group of South Central Pennsylvania residents had a different idea. They created a community designed from the start to minimize demands on natural resources, including water. It seems to be working.
The Messeder Space Pod (for want, at present, of a better name) finally is ready to go. My co-pilot in life and other travels went visiting her sister a couple months ago, and came home in love with an r-Pod, a small (18-foot) camper trailer not much bigger than the original space capsule that carried Astronaut Alan Shepard from Cape Canaveral to a wet spot in the Atlantic Ocean.
I don’t know whether it’s global warming, climate change or as my spouse chooses to believe, the snow thrower we bought last year, when we thought more snowy winters to be in the offing.
I pulled the machine out of the shed in October, when we had a pretty serious snow – for South-Central Pennsylvania. About eight inches of the white stuff blanketed the ground. I cleared the driveway and the extra parking space – and have not used the machine since.
I suggested maybe we spent the money unnecessarily. Wife suggested it was money well spent.
If you haven’t heard The Willys, you’ve missed a treat. We caught them one recent evening at The Underside, a restaurant and pub under the Altland House, on Abbottstown Square.
Their music is difficult to define. It’s been called “classic rock and beyond,” which leader Bill Serfass said sums it up about as well as any other description.
To my ear – I only know what I like but I’m not good with labels – it’s a mixture of gentle Rock-and-Roll and ballads. As my wife and I sat enjoying an appetizer of potato chips and sauce (both of which are made in the Underside kitchen) the group started one song I thought could have played in a Jimmy Buffett concert, though it wasn’t a Buffett song. In another number, Continue reading →
Wednesday was opening day for the Adams County Farmers Market Association. Nearly a dozen vendors, representing growers from around the county, set up their tents at the Gettysburg Rec Park.
There is nothing tastier than fresh stuff on the dinner table. Place two dishes of lettuce on the table, one from the grocery store plastic bag produce section and one from the farm market, then chomp into a sample from each. Continue reading →
We had a compost pile when I was young. Newspapers had a variety of uses, from wrapping other waste to starting fires to rolling tightly and burning as logs.
We had a town dump where I was raised. It was a great place for weekly social gathering. It’s amazing how much business is decided — personal, commercial and governmental — at such meet-ups. Continue reading →