Friday, February 28, 2014

Ratty has a plan to take back Toad Hall

All God's creatures got a place in the choir
Some sing low and some sing higher
Some sing out loud on the telephone wire

Some just clap their hands or paws or anything they got, now

And throw all the food on the floor!

But Team 61 has a plan.

We have three feeders in the yard.
One has a block of safflower seed,
One holds niger seed for my flying pigs,
And one holds the medium priced fare that everyone, except cardinals, likes.

The feeder by the stairs 
holds the filet minion of bird seed,
the expensive stuff.
Notice the squirrels have attacked the craft show feeders from last year, 
that drug us into this bird feeding business.
The cardinals like that feeder, and are reduced to scavenging under the big feeder until  
spring, and we can provide them a real feeder. Stay tuned, I have ideas!

I have been advised that black birds do not like safflower seed.

This stuff.
I have never seen a jay, starling or cowbird on this feeder.
I guess that's why.

When we fill the feeders tomorrow, we will put a lighter touch on the big bird feeder. 
It's already bluejay proof; they are too big to sit on a ring and use a feeding hole.
The starlings are almost too big; the cowbirds are not too big.
So, we will use technology to send them down below,
To clean up their mess, and dine with the squirrels.

Then we will fill the feeder at the stairwell with safflower seed.
Take that you stupid starlings, go eat all the stuff you put on the ground.

That said, I have the new camera and here's what I did with it today:

A tufted titmouse.

A chickadee.

A finch and a nuthatch.
It's the best picture I got of the nuthatch. Today. I'll get him!

Too many birds on this feeder!

Who does he think he is?

And stay away!

At least two downy woodpeckers use this feeder.
Look at that fat belly. 

And, of course, my flying pigs.
Fat little bellies here, too!.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Not a pretty picture

Don't be taken in.

Things are not as they seem.

Our small, and exceedingly cold world
Has been swarmed by cruel invaders.

The cowbirds and starlings
Have located Camp 61!

A chickadee at the cupboard,

The cupboard is bare,
Emptied in one day by a starling.
Most on the ground.
Perhaps he's in league with the squirrel.

World affairs in the front yard!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


My pocket rang today, and when I pulled out the phone it was an emergency number I recognized from last year. 411-0000. Trouble. It was the high school calling to report they had just gone from lockdown to educational lockdown.  That meant the children were no longer hiding out of line of sight in the room, but continuing their class behind locked doors, while the police investigated a suspicious person report.

There was no notice of lockdown; why tell me it was lifted. Oh, I forgot all the busy thumbs notifying parents from behind overturned desks, they were in lockdown.

A year ago, the day before Christmas break, a man in a black trench coat, umbrella over his shoulder, prompted lockdown. Emily said that one seemed like a drill; they sat at their desks and waited for the all clear.

Since last year the school has a policy of all doors locked during school hours. Today’s lock down was for a man in a black trench coat and a ski mask, looking for a way in. Point of information: it probably was five degrees out when a student spotted the man outside, and notified the office.

Emily reported she was in Spanish class, in the wing where the person was seen outside. They piled desks against the door. The teacher wrapped a student’s belt around the door and held it in case the lock failed. The students armed themselves with books to throw and scissors, in case their defenses were breached.

The students were frightened. It was not like a drill. Emily was excused from her history test the next period, she was too distracted. She and another student stood down a blasé classroom contingent that wanted to leave before the all clear was given.

I’m not second guessing anyone; this probably is the Chicken Little world of the future. It was the video man, coming to set up a student project. Perhaps he wasn't told which door to use. Perhaps he was only walking to the correct door. Perhaps the office could have located him outside the building and asked his business before they pushed the panic button under the desk.

On the other hand, the school was reacting to every possible consequence, not the least of which was the drama being punched into cell phones by a thousand or two busy thumbs, notifying the world that, OMG, a man in a black trench coat and ski mask is walking around outside the building. So, kudos to the students, the teachers and the police who passed lockdown 101. I think the administration might augment their locked door policy with a common sense rider: Notify the office of all anticipated visitors.

It was much simpler when we knelt in the halls, protected our heads with our arms, and went home to report a bomb drill that day.

Not a black trenchcoat

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Great Blue Herons are back

This is the rookery, a year ago
Yesterday was just as beautiful a day,
But I didn't realize the herons are back until we passed this morning.
And today is an exceedingly grey day!

The herons are huge birds, 
Three to four feet tall, with a six foot wingspan.
They look like grey monks, sitting drawn up by their nests,
But are magnificent when the stand and move.
I cannot select, here are all the pictures.

The sycamore that fell over the winter is not being used

But the park rangers say this rookery has become overcrowded as it is
And the herons are moving further downstream.

I waited for the train on the way home.


Saturday, February 22, 2014

An old road story

My street is one of half a dozen residential streets off a county road. I had lunch recently with an old resident who referred to them as “the new streets.” Most were cut in the 1950’s, which is new in my township.

My street was an old farm lane, named after the family farm it bisected, and my side of the street was pasture land. The other side has the natural springs that cooled the spring houses that kept the dairy products cool and fresh for customers. I’m told there was quite a cheese factory operating on the acreage across our street. But the history of this end of the township is a little hazy.

This story is about the county road running north and south at the end of my street. This is the season of ubiquitous potholes, and I pulled over on the county road today to take a picture. This road base is brick. If it were a new road, the road bed would be probably three to four feet deep, filled with gravel, reinforced with rebar and made of concrete or asphalt poured into a frame.

But this is an old road. Akron Cleveland Road was one of the original state highways in Ohio, going from Marietta on the Ohio River to Cleveland on Lake Erie. It’s as old as automobiles! Back in the forties, when summers were as hot as this winter has been cold, Akron Cleveland Road was paved in the same bricks that are under the asphalt.

The grandson of the dairy farmers spent his summers here on his grandma’s farm. Today he lives on the corner of my street and the county road. He told me this story, and I've repeated it to people who think he made it up. Since I’m even older than he is, I know roads were paved in bricks once upon a time. The street my mother grew up on still is paved in bricks. Today I pulled right off the road when I saw bricks at the bottom of the pot hole. This one’s for you, Skip!

Back in the day, Skip said, those bricks were laid down just as they appear in that photo. Cars went up, cars went down, and on hot afternoons he sat on the front porch with his grandma, watching them. And an eye on the thermometer. Because, if it was hot enough for enough days and nights in a row, and those bricks got hotter and hotter, and the cars kept going up and down, sometimes he and grandma saw it happen!

A brick blew right up out of the road. Sometimes another and another. And on a really good day they got to see a brick go right through a radiator.

Friday, February 21, 2014

How Carly sees me

Not quite a month ago I fell, landed on my six day old eye implant and came up with an incredible shiner. I decided it would be the last of the several nasty spills I’ve taken over the last year; I would find someone who would teach me balance.

Several years ago a local woman I’ve known for years, Natalie, and one I didn’t know, Carly, opened a fitness studio in the big building across the road at work, and hung a huge banner over the third floor balcony rail: Total Body Fitness. Week before last I rounded up the phone number, called, and got Carly.

I told her I was an old lady who’d had a stroke, not done well with rehab, worked out at the gym until a year ago, and this past year was on a slippery slope to the bottom unless I found the brake on my sled. “Honey,” Carly said, “you need your core back and I can do that for you.”

Carly put me through the paces for two weeks before my second cataract surgery. I had to take this week off (I do follow some instructions to the letter!), but next week I’m back at it. The first visit I climbed three loooonnnng staircases to the studio, Carly hanging over the top banister, “You can call that your warm up!” She put me on the treadmill anyway.

At our last session Carly had me doing exercises on the balance ball. Granted the ball was against the wall, but I didn’t fall off the top, either side or the front as I lifted weights. She was pleased I moved so soon from doing the routines seated on the front of a chair. (Secret: it’s far easier to balance on that ball than sit up straight on the edge of a chair!)

As we parted until next week Carly asked if she could mention my name in a little blurb she was inserting in the current community news, the little paper our township publishes monthly. I had no problem with a testimonial; she’s worked the bejammers out of me, got me balancing on that ball in two weeks with promises of keeping my balance when we’re through. She means what she says! The paper was in yesterday’s mail. Carly is priceless, and that elevator is too scary to enter!


Total Body Fitness would like to welcome our new clients, Deb xxxx (Hudson) and Joanne Noragon (Peninsula). Neither of these women allows the challenges of life to get the best of them. We especially want to thank Joanne 70+ yrs. Old, a stroke survivor with paralysis, who refused to use the elevator to get to our third floor studio. We also want to thank all of our many clients over the years.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Emily Redux

Emily believes I have frightened too many people,
with her STEM project on arsenic.
and should write a short paragraph on 
arsenic as a naturally occurring element.
Excellent, I said. Give it to me in Word and 
you can make minds rest easy.

Over the weekend Emily also decided it was time
to send the golden locks to a new home.

And so she did.

I mailed her pony tail to Locks of Love
when I went back to work yesterday.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Some controls are in order. Perhaps a double blind?

Science Fair, as it has been co-opted by the STEM faction, has come and gone again this year, mostly. My memory of last year is the judges went to lunch and forgot to dismiss Emily’s group until some old grandma went into the hall and asked when these children would be allowed to eat.

I have an additional memory of last year’s STEM fair. Emily emerged from her first of many meetings saying she was partnering with a student who was a sophomore, and their project was whatever it was. Then the older girl dumped her, on the advice of her mother, for the possibility that Emily might turn out to be unreliable. Emily got through a project, and boy, did we both learn STEM is about far more than tri-fold boards.

Emily and Hamilton both had STEM fair requirements this year, so off we went to the first meeting. I had just read an article about the uptake of arsenic in rice, especially in the more “naturally” produced rices and very especially in baby cereals marketed as “natural.”  Sadly I had not read enough scientific articles to toss an idea to Hamilton on the ride to school, but he did OK on his own.

In a crazy and noisy STEM meeting that first night I found a bench in the hall and my two melted into the wild and undulating crowd of students meeting advisers, arranging labs, having biological hazards assessed (give me a break!). Emily and Hamilton emerged unscathed and approved, and Emily had a tiny girl in tow. “Grandma, this is Angela. She’s a freshman. We’re a team.”

And they were. Angela is a petite ninth grader, and although she has an older brother in high school, she was as overwhelmed as Emily the previous year.  So, Angela and Emily set out to expose rice to the world. From their abstract: “People generally don’t know what is in the food they are eating. A person could cook a whole meal and not even know there is a possibility of traces of poison being in their food.”

The chemistry teacher provided test strips, Angela bought a bag of brown rice and a box of Minute Rice, Emily rode Angela’s bus to Angela’s house many Friday nights, and Grandma took Hamilton along to find Angela’s house in the dark, before Grandma got new eyes. The intrepid young ladies experimented away in Angela’s basement, and wrote a paper, with surprisingly few grammatical errors, considering neither would consider a career in the English language.

From time to time I asked how the great rice project progressed; the general response was I did not want to know. The mistakes were legion; there was no time to start over. They still called it the great arsenic in rice project, while privately conceding they had no controls in place, not even knowledge of the origin or processing of their rice samples. So, they forged on.

Science Fair was the first of February. Once again Emily was not dismissed on time; she and Angela were held over for the award ceremony and promotion to the next competition level, in March.

The team demonstrated for the judges that brown rice has an average of 4 parts per billion of arsenic, white rice 6 ppb and tap water an average of 2 ppb. Again from the abstract, “It is possible, however, that the researchers went wrong in there (sic) experiment by adding unknown variables, reading the data wrong, or simply making human mistakes as they worked. So, while these results are helpful, a person must take into account the likelihood of human mistakes being present, and the data being wrong.”

Now we’ll see when the wheels fall off. “At least,” Emily said, “we’re out of test strips!” Their project featured an on the spot demonstration of test strips and arsenic in water. “Except we used well water from our house, and it had much more arsenic than the rice or Angela’s water. But don’t worry, Grandma. It’s still safe!”

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Last hurrah and a card carrying pair

Yesterday's cataract surgery was uneventful; in at nine, home at one. After my missing breakfast and a long nap  I was ready for supper and bed.

Returning this morning for the unveiling seemed another matter. We had one more round of snow, starting about nine last night.  Six inches, ending no later than one or two in the morning, could not forestall the call these children have come to hate: School is Cancelled, due to deteriorating conditions.

It only looks bad; our road is plowed. It is eminently clear; the state awarded five extra snow days, and this district intends to take them.

The driver and the passenger with the tea strainer eye (blue this time) left early, just in case the school really had better intelligence than the local traffic report. We were thirty minutes early for the appointment, and I was seen immediately. They were happy for a patient to take up the slack.

We were driving home about the time I was scheduled to be seen. I am a registered, card carrying cataract lens replacement person, with wrap around sun glasses I am happy to have. It's bright out there.

I am totally convinced my camera's fall did more than break the flash; its lens suffered too. Focus is simply gone! I researched the internet; it's a not infrequent by-product of not using the wrist strap.

Dodd Camera can expect me around lunch time tomorrow.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Team 61 gets lucky, sees Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Dear Emily,

I am the volunteer State data reviewer for the Great Backyard Bird Count. My goal is to keep up with data submissions and try to ensure the accuracy of reports of rare and unusual species, as well as unusually high counts of common species.

Emily, this is an interesting report. Either of these species would be an exciting find. Black-headed Grosbeak has occurred but once in Ohio to our knowledge. The Rose-breasted Grosbeak makes an appearance in winter about every 4 years. And your description seems to point to that species. I would urge every effort be made to obtain a photo. Even a snapshot from a point n shoot or smart phone through the window would likely be enough for incontrovertible documentation. Short of obtaining a photo, a more detailed description of the plumage, and especially the structure of the bird (bill, tail, wings, etc) can serve as a substitute.

How about that! We answered back we are satisfied it is the Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and will make every effort to get a photo. Jan has seen the bird over the last two weeks, mostly in the heavy brush cover in the ravine behind the house. Of course, no one has spent fifteen minutes observing bird feeders before! I believe I am observing a new camera in my future. With a view finder. About 60x, what do you think?

But not for a week or so; tomorrow is my other cataract surgery.

No way to go but down and up

Some folks live on the wrong side of the tracks. I live on the wrong side of the river. The only way north is down and up.

I took Hamilton to church this morning. Down Steels Corners Road, up Sand Run. As I left the church parking lot, white flakes commenced. Two hours later, an inch of flakes on top of the old snow. There will be another inch when I leave to bring him home. Down into the valley, up the other side. How I hope those trucks are out now, salting those windy, 15% grade, narrow, stinkin’ roads that are uphill both ways!

I promised the girls a trip to the bird seed store after lunch. It’s south!


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Team 61 reporting

Audubon’s Great Backyard Bird Count began on Valentine’s Day and ends tomorrow.  Having a yard full of birds, as we do, we are close to obligated to report. Bird NSA, so to speak. If we feed them, we can count them!

We could register as anonymous, but Emily chose Team 61.

I've watched bird antics for several months now, but never in such a concentrated dose. We watched a starling bully a woodpecker; having dismissed the woodpecker, as he thought, the starling put his beak toward the feeder, and Blam!..the woodpecker came back round the feeder and kicked the starling’s butt!

The word has gone afar. In the beginning I only had to open my heart to a couple of jays. Now they come in droves, and have swept in a couple of starlings on the way. One squirrel has morphed into half a dozen, which at least mollify me by remaining on clean-up crew.

Emily emailed me the two lists submitted by Team 61. We had to get the bird book for the grosbeak. It’s early; he should still be in Wisconsin, on Ann’s feeders. Without further ado, the breakfast bunch:

My House, Summit, US-OH

Feb 15, 2014 10:00 AM - 10:15 AM
Protocol: Stationary
10 species (+2 other taxa)

Mourning Dove  2
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
Hairy Woodpecker  1
Blue Jay  20
Tufted Titmouse  5
European Starling  2
Dark-eyed Junco  10
Northern Cardinal  20
Rose-breasted/Black-headed Grosbeak  1     very white belly, with a red chest and a black head
House/Purple Finch  2
American Goldfinch  18
House Sparrow  6

We had another go after lunch. Fewer birds, a third starling!

My House, Summit, US-OH

Feb 15, 2014 1:00 PM - 1:15 PM
Protocol: Stationary
Comments:     Cars drove past several times and scared the birds away, making it hard to count them.
9 species (+1 other taxa)

Mourning Dove  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
Blue Jay  6
Black-capped Chickadee  4
Tufted Titmouse  5
European Starling  3
Dark-eyed Junco  11
Northern Cardinal  6
House/Purple Finch  6
American Goldfinch  7

Data entry

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

In search of the elusive chipmunks

A township is elementary government; we are the next layer after the folks who elected us. Not only does the buck stop here, it often doesn't leave here as it didn't arrive. The only tax revenue a township may collect is real estate tax. My township has fewer than three hundred homes and possibly thirty taxable businesses properties left.

That’s it. The federal government and other non-taxable entities have acquired over ninety percent of the township’s property in the last forty years. There is no going back, and laments are not taxable, so we go forward.  I’m the fiscal officer, the person with no authority save ensuring the transparency of transactions.

Trustees have the power and the glory posts. Part time. That is, generally trustees have real jobs and administer the business of their townships a few evenings a month. Two thirds of my trustees have always been employed in other government jobs, more layers between them and the public. Bigger budgets, too. And, one-third of my trustees work in the real world, as I did for forty years before this job.

And, we gnash teeth and pull hair at the futility of making government employees understand money is saved in payroll, not in postage stamps. So, we soldier on, a person of no authority and a trustee minority. It is so futile I've considered chucking it, except now I have three grandchildren to keep in lunch money and stuff. And, who would be interested in my new project? No one!

My little old fashioned township has a little old fashioned web page. No bells and whistles, just real stuff. Boston Township has more past than future, and history is most visited. I believe we are the only remaining link to For All People for all Time, a documentary of the federal government’s shameful history of national park acquisition.

There is fun stuff, too, like interviewing old Boston residents to reconstruct the history of Boston Park, which I did last summer. I ran my new idea past the webmaster; he likes it.  A picture page. Bigger and better than all the little pictures we posted of our bicentennial a couple of years ago. The webmaster is working on turning my ideas into a page, and today was so beautiful I took my camera out to capture my opening picture, the chipmunks at the nursery across the road.

The nursery is beautiful, state of the art poly houses, more plants than Laura can ever select among. Out on the front patio, greeting customers all last summer, chipmunks. Little roly-poly chipmunks, fat cheeks bulging with seeds.  Their only danger is all the big feet, and they dart away swiftly. What better time than today to get a picture. Blue skies. White snow. A minimum of customers. And, a quickly amused manager, who told me the little fellows hibernate. Well, the page isn’t ready yet. Here are the pictures I did take today.

 In my yard.
  You looking at me? I'm looking at you, too.

 I didn't want to make a collage of the next pictures,

 So here they are, one after another.

I've seen this youngster around all fall and winter,
One of the last of the fawns.

It has a good shaggy coat, and an old wound on it's hind leg.
It's been a hard winter for the animals.
Lunch is pine needles and twigs.

It finally looked up.
I moved on.

There are goats down the road, 
So I went to see if they were out.

The steps lead to
The Goaten Gate Bridge!

And on the way home the youngster
Ruminated over lunch.