Entries to Win Afghan

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Friday, August 31, 2012

Little Green Cutie

I brought home quite a few critters in a tub of elderberries this afternoon. Spent two hours taking berries off the stems, and I've probably got an hour to go. Tomorrow. I've had enough fun for today.

The count includes: one stink bug, one unknown beetle, two little spiders, two little green worms, three tiny snails, and...

A lovely, lively katydid! I really love these insects.

They are cousins of the grasshopper, all order Orthoptera, family Tettigoniidae for katydids. There are thousands of Tettigoniidae. However, I think it's in the genus Amblycorypha, but there are a couple of choices there, and I'm not clear on the differences.


The males "sing" by rubbing their wings together, and they say "katy-did."

My mother had little ditties for many occasions. Whenever we would hear one of these insects, she would sing the song "K-k-k-katy, beautiful Katy/ You're the only g-g-g-girl that I adore/ When the m-m-m-moon shines over the cow shed/ I'll be waiting at the k-k-k-kitchen door." I suspect you have to be at least as old as I am to have heard that song.

I didn't manage to get a picture in which you can tell if this is a girl or boy katydid!

But, thanks to the diversity of the internet, you can hear the original recording by Billy Murray on You Tube

By the way, katydids aren't aggressive, but they can give you a painful bite if they are so inclined. Not dangerous, but you will definitely know something bit you!

See Grasshoppers
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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Birds of the Day, and more

Today, I was out doing assignments all day. Just some random finds for the day.

I loved these sleepy female mallards.

sleeping mallards

This field of Joe-pye weed and goldenrod was just shining in the late sun. I almost missed it, but turned around to snap some photos.

wildflower field

Finally, an extremely rare find in our climate. The nesting flamingo.


I'm too tired to be funny. Off to bed for me.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Unknown Plant- a Stumper

Let's go back to the other new plant. I now don't feel so bad that I don't know what it is. It also has a couple of real botanists stumped.

However, it may be a garden escape, or something more southern. So... YOU might recognize it. I have no clue what the blossoms looked like. These are the seed pods.

unknown plant

Here's one opened up with the seed showing.

unknown plant

The plant is about five feet tall with multiple spikes.

unknown plant

See the smooth upper leaves near the seed pods. Well, now look at the lower leaves. They are completely different!

unknown plant

I've eliminated a lot of plant families due to the growth form, leaf arrangement, etc, etc, but it ends up looking to me like an Echinops that grew into a Lobelia and tried to be a Triosteum. Not an option.

All comments welcome. If I don't think your guess is right I'll try to tell you why. We may both learn something.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012


I've mentioned before what a terrible year this has been for fruit in Michigan. In my personal kingdom where I usually get free fruit, this year there are no cherries, no raspberries, no mulberries, no apples, no crabapples, and no pears.

However, I've been watching the ditches along a few roads not far from me. The Elderberries are easy to spot when they are in bloom. I noted some locations when the big white flower heads were visible in June. Today, I checked out one of those places.

American elderberry

The fruits that look nearly black are ready to pick! This is American elderberry, Sambucus Canadensis.

American elderberry

Remember my goal to make a year's worth of breakfast juice last year? I did make enough to get me through the whole year. I'll be hard pressed to pull that off for "free" this year. (I use a little sweetener, and processing costs a bit for the gas for the stove, and canning lids, but you know what I mean)

However, there will be a few jars of yummy, yummy elderberry juice!

American elderberry

Not all the berries were ready, so I'll be stopping back there again.

See Best Accomplishments of 2011
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Monday, August 27, 2012

44 Years, But Who's Counting (1,2,3,....)

It's true. 44 years ago, Omer and I began on this strange adventure.

wedding day

One of our favorite jokes has always been from a greeting card I found long ago. "We may never make Who's Who, but we were on page 47 of What Was That?

I think that worked out well.

Let's see, what would the above picture look like if we were to do it all over again? I think I can show you, pretty close at least.

wedding day

Yes, that's really us. Look closer.

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

New Tree- Goldenrain Tree

Most regular readers know that I think any hike is extra-good if I find a plant I don't know. On this Ohio hike, I found two! I've only identified one of them. It's Koelreuteria paniculata, the Goldenrain Tree.

It's done blooming at this time of year, but the seed pods are as beautiful as the flowers. This tree stuck to the golden color.

goldenrain tree

However, it may also be pink tinged, and I found a nice example of that.

goldenrain tree

Earlier in the summer it would have been covered with yellow blossoms. This tree doesn't grow in Michigan. Northern Ohio is about as far north as it grows.

It's not a native tree. It comes from China and Korea. Thomas Jefferson planted the first seeds of this plant in the United States. They were a gift from Madame de Tessé, the aunt of Lafayette. It's apparently used as an ornamental and street planting, as it tolerates difficult conditions well. I'm betting some of my southern friends would have known it in an instant.

Here are the seed pods dried. I broke one open and found dark seeds about 1/4 inch across.

goldenrain tree

One site I researched said that the seeds can be roasted and eaten. I'd like to try that. If I'd known I could have brought some home.

I'm really stumped on the other plant. Maybe I'll show you tomorrow and see if someone knows it.

See Buckeye Trail- Napoleon Lock to Providence Lock
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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Buckeye Trail- Providence Lock to Waterville

This was going to be another long day with 12.3 miles to do, but I knew it was going to be nice trail, probably with more to see than the day before. It began with the bike ride, longer than the walk so that I didn't have to take busy US 24 except for the last two miles. I put the car in downtown Waterville and rode back to the Lock.

I did have to walk those same two miles along US 24, but I was soon at Grand Rapids. This town is one of my favorite Ohio places. Just to the east, at Kimble's Landing is a reconstructed canal boat, the Volunteer.

Miami Erie canal boat

This day, it was just resting peacefully. But Wednesdays through Sundays it will carry passengers to the Ludwig Mill at Grand Rapids, which is still operating. I won't fill this post with details about the attraction. I've done it once, and hope to do so again. Very authentic and educational!

The trail here is well-maintained. Although the canal soon becomes a dry ditch again, the Maumee River is close on the other side. This section must be more shallow. The day before I saw boats using the river. Here, the herons and geese had it to themselves.

great blue heron

One landmark where I rested was in a pavilion at a spot known as Bendview. The map said it is known as the best view along the Maumee, where the river makes a near 90 degree bend. It was nice, but the day was hot and I wanted to finish, so I didn't stay long.

Bendview Maumee River

The third day of a hike is always the hardest. By then, everything aches. The fourth day, you begin to toughen up. True to form, I was tired and sore and weary. However, there was a nice change of pace about to come my way. Resting on the next bench was a man who had passed me earlier when I was eating lunch. We decided to hike together for a bit.

It turns out that he is a pastor named Larry from the Cincinnati area. He knows Steven Newman, the first man to walk around the world, and Bill Irwin, the first blind man to hike the Appalachian Trail. I've also met both of those hikers. He asked me quite a few questions about what I was doing, and I found out that he lived in Michigan for quite a few years. We found things to talk about for the rest of the way to Waterville.

That was a great way to end the day. Instead of spending the final four miles quietly whining about sore knees and feet, heat, and just wishing to get to the car, I was given a cheerful companion!

Along the way we passed by Roche de Boeuf, a famous Native American meeting place. The bridge was built for a railroad, which destroyed part of the rock.

Roche de Boeuf

At 2:30 I parted company with Larry. He headed to Subway, and I went to my car. I have to admit that one of the very best things about day hiking is that I can enjoy an ice-cold Diet Coke at the end of each day's walk!

cold Diet Coke

With no further ado, I hopped in the car and headed for Chuck & Sylvia's to pick up my electronic accessories. They had invited me to join them for dinner if I wasn't too late, so I didn't fool around.

Total miles walked in three days: 33. Buckeye Trail section completed: Defiance. Sections yet to do: either 4 or 7- I have to find out which loop is the official one. Each has about 50 miles in it.

Thanks for joining me!

See Buckeye Trail- Napoleon to Providence Lock
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Friday, August 24, 2012

Buckeye Trail- Napoleon to Providence Lock

Monday was to be my longest day of hiking. It began with a very good change of plans. The Buckeye Trail map showed the route as a roadwalk on the south side of the Maumee River. It also showed that there was some off-road trail completed on the north side of the river. Let me explain.

A few years ago, the state of Ohio decided to take advantage of the fact that they still owned the rights to the canal towpaths, and they gave the Buckeye Trail permission to develop something like 49 "new" miles of trail. This allowed the off-road trail to be extended east from Florida, toward Grand Rapids (and some other places). Some pieces of that reclamation were easier than others, and where the canal route is completely gone ( overtaken by the river for example) it becomes challenging. I knew that part of the trail from Napoleon was done, but thought it wasn't completed very far. I did know that I didn't want to do much roadwalk on the north side of the river, because it would have to be on US 24, a very busy and dangerous highway. I'm no wimp; this is a seriously bad road.

However, when I talked with the maintenance guy at the state park, he had current information. He knows people from the Buckeye Trail Crew, and said that the trail was completed almost all the way to the old lock, which you can see here- the walls anyway.

Providence Lock

So... I decided to stay on the north side of the river. It meant some bike riding on aforementioned US 24 till I could get to the next bridge and cross to the less busy side of the Maumee, but I was careful. I decided to ride the bike first, so that when I reached the car on foot I was done for the day (except to go pick up the bike). That's psychologically better.

Most of the day was on dirt trail similar to what I showed yesterday. But there were occasional lovely grassy sections like this one.

Buckeye Trail

Despite how hard-packed the ground is, the trail is practically riddled with woodchuck holes. They can actually be dangerous, they are so large. I managed not to step in any of them, and I also got to see one of the occupants. He (she?) was pretty darn relaxed! Of course, when I got very close... POP... down the hole!


By mid-afternoon, I was crossing near several homes in Texas. Yes, I had now walked from Florida to Texas.

Texas, Ohio

One of my favorite sections of the late afternoon was beneath these Osage Orange trees. They always create eerie fairy-tale-like openings when planted in a row.

Buckeye Trail

The afternoon heated up quite a bit, reaching 87 degrees, but only the last half-mile of walking was out on the road in the full sun. Not bad. I finished by 4:30.

I tried to drive the approximate route to measure it, since this mileage wasn't on the map. However, I discovered there is a new 4-lane highway, the new US 24, that is almost ready to open, which parallels the same route. However, it means that you can't drive right along the river for the distance any more. My best guess is that I walked between 12 and 13 miles.

I did manage to end up in another town which had an ice-cream place. For just $4 total I had a coney dog and a dish of delicious Buckeye Bits ice cream.

I was perfectly happy to spend the evening reading in my tent, and I fell asleep when it was barely dark. Day two was a success.

See Buckeye Trail- Florida to Napoleon
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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Buckeye Trail- Florida to Napoleon

This post is going to have too many pictures. You'll just have to deal with it. I really want to show you what my recent three-day hike was like, and it needs that many to cover day one.

First, the logistics. Because I went alone, with one car, and no one to spot me each day, I had to spot myself with my bike. That means that I ride the bike one direction and walk the other, to get back to the car. Northern Ohio is quite flat, so it's not too strenuous a program (although I've noticed I'm not getting younger.)

Sunday was already tight. I drove from Chuck and Sylvia's about three hours to Napoleon, Ohio. There I located a park which was on the trail, and set about getting my bike ready. That just meant tightening a loose nut on my rat traps (toe cages), and checking the tires. When I pumped up the back tire I heard "hisssssss." Uh,oh! It got better or worse when I wiggled the valve, so I knew the hole was right where it met the tube. I had patches with me, but with a hole at that location, you might as well save your time and sanity and get a new tube.

I quizzed a young woman on an apartment porch about where I could buy a bike tube on Sunday. She had no idea. I realized she needed better direction, so I asked if there was a Meijer or Wal-Mart. That did the trick. She gave me directions and I bought a new tube. I admit to forgetting to take any pictures of the replacement in progress. I just needed to get it DONE. That whole project made me even an hour later than I already was. But finally the bike was locked and ready to leave.


Then I drove to the small town of Florida. This was where I had taken my first steps on the Buckeye Trail, in 1995. Since a few readers own my book, North Country Cache, I'll tell you that tale is told in Chapter 9, "Buckeye Beginning." (This blog post is more like a hiker journal entry. I'd just like to clarify that my book about my hikes does not slip into this blow-by-blow event format too often.)

I duplicated a picture I took all those years ago, as a milestone of sorts.

Miami-Erie Canal towpath trail

In this shot, looking west, the old Miami-Erie canal is to the right of the towpath trail and the Maumee River is to the left, although neither show in this shot.

But Sunday, I turned around and headed east. Now, a few of the miles I am walking this day are also North Country Trail, but when I did this section in 1995 the NCT joined the Buckeye Trail at Florida, Ohio.

The towpath heading east was shady and pleasant. Here's a typical shot of the sort of trail I saw. Where the ground falls off to a ditch at the left is the old canal. All those trees have grown up since it was abandoned.

Miami-Erie Canal towpath Buckeye trail

I only had 8.3 miles to walk, and that was a good thing because I didn't get started until 3:10 pm. But I stepped right along and called Marie, my usual hiking buddy, to tell her I was hiking, and missed her.

Toward the end of the day's miles, as I approached Napoleon, there was a stretch through a city park. You can see how close the river is. Within this city, no trace of the canal remains.

Ritter Park Napoleon Ohio

Before long I was just a couple of blocks from the handsome Henry County Courthouse. Napoleon, Ohio is also the city where I stayed at the Augusta Rose Bed & Breakfast when I gave a program about my adventures in 2010.

Henry County Courthouse Napoleon Ohio

Then I was at the bike, and only had to ride back to my car! There was still plenty of light, so there were no safety concerns on that score. The next piece of business was to get to Mary Jane Thurston State Park and snag a campsite.

There were no problems accomplishing that, and soon my favorite and familiar little blue home was all set up and ready for me to crawl into. I confess to not feeling like cooking. I bought some ice for the cooler and a tuna sandwich caught my eye. It was a tasty dinner.

blue tent

Sunset on the Maumee, the banks of which were maybe 30 feet from my tent, was a lovely ending to the day.

sunset on the Maumee River

(Until the story of "Oops- or Not" began!)

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Truth about the Blog-posting Murderers Fest '12

All right, now that you've heard all the sugar-coated reports of the weekend blog picnic, it's time for the truth. Lin and Joe were worried right from the start. Joe was circumspectly checking Chuck for concealed weapons.

blog picnic

Oh! He had every reason to be wary...

blog picnic

David was already out of the picture, having been skewered on a fence post.

blog picnic

And JoAnn had to be handcuffed...

blog picnic

for perpetrating the wildly unrestrained tomato Macarena.

blog picnic

Lin begged for mercy.

blog picnic

But we were all judged equally guilty and quickly rounded up for mug shots.

blog picnic

So why are the murderers smiling? (We were bribed with eggplant and zucchini, homemade bread and jam.)

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