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This is about the Portage County Park District, first in what will probably be a series of rants.

Portage County DOES HAVE a park district. CATCH : Over 800 A of the land comprising the district are currently inaccessible because of a lack of funds.  The budget has been severely cut, with the 2014 revenues projected to be only $99,500 to manage 1300 A of parkland and 14 miles of hike and bike trails.  To paraphrase Barney Dyer who witnessed the famous Ravenna Glassblowers’ Wreck, where two trains got on the same track, heading for each other, with predictably disastrous results, “That’s a helluva way to run a park system!”

Our neighbors to the north in Geauga County have a marvelous system, with programs for all age and mobility levels, seasonal attractions and programs, inviting trails and structures, professional staff.  To the west, Summit County co-ordinates with the CVNP (Cuyahoga Valley National Park) to offer its citizens a multitude of outdoor experiences and programs, managed and protected by a professional staff.  Further to the west, in Lorain County, my home stomping grounds, there are parks from the Lake (Erie) to the southern flatlands along the Black River, with lodges available for local activities and varieties of programs.  People USE these.  They hike, they run, they camp, they picnic, they fish, they canoe/paddle around, they learn and enjoy.

Portage County could do the same but it must provide reliable financial support for the system.  One full-time (the remarkable director, Chris Craycroft) and two part-time employees cannot do everything that needs to be done…but they’ve already done an amazing amount, working with volunteers and garnering grants from all over the place to keep things going.  Even such efforts cannot carry the whole load forever.

What is the load?

1.Towner’s Woods  2. Dix Park  3. Portage Bike and Hike Trail  4. Headwaters Trail  5. Breakneck Creek Preserve  6. Chagrin Headwaters Preserve  7. Walter Preserve  8. Camp Spelman  9. Gray Birch Bog Preserve  10. Seneca Ponds Park  11. Dix Preserve  12. Morgan Preserve  13.  Berlin Lake Trail  14. Red Fox boat access—Upper Cuyahoga State Scenic River  15. Frank lin Bog Preserve

Some…most… are open only for guided tours.  Some contain biologically important water features and significant vegetation found   in not very many places.  Some have most of the features—picnic shelters and grills, special events, fishing, cross-country skiing, trails for all seasons, etc.—that encourage participation in outdoor activities.  There could be more, but not unless there is a reliable funding source.

Not to put too fine a point on it, our governor and legislature have about  sprained their collective arms giving themselves a pat on the back for “balancing the budget” and giving Ohio a “rainy day fund” but they have done this by slashing local government funds(Ask your township trustees, county commissioners, mayors & councilpersons… or school boards, they got stiffed too), so that the state of Ohio is sitting on about $8 billion while all of us out in the fly-over country are looking at constant   requests for passage of levies for things that we want and things that we  had thought we would get help for from Columbus.  Nope.

So…If we could just see our way clear to give up, maybe one, maybe two pizzas over the course of the year, WE COULD DO THIS!  Sounds like a deal!

We could even get out and USE this asset as it expands.  And maybe we wouldn’t personally expand the way we have been.  Right, Wide-Load?

For Fun…

For Health…

For Life…

PARKS,

YES!

May 6, 2014

 

April showers bring May flowers, eh?

Somebody alert the providers of floral items.  They’re either going to be left twiddling their thumbs because the general public is inundated by blooms of exotic sizes and descriptions springing up along every highway and by-way or their own backyards…or…there will be wholesalers of flowers lurking around corners trying to off-load cheap orchid and baby’s breath that they just happen to have a truckload of in a back alley somewhere.  “Hey, little girl, want some real cool Dianthus barbatus?  Try it, you’ll like it.  Give it to your friends.  I’ll come back tomorrow.  Bring your lunch money.”

So this week you could celebrate the one hundred forty-second anniversary of the first Arbor Day, begun in Nebraska—where they really needed trees—in 1872(If you don’t count Villanueva de la Sierra in Spain in 1805).  J. Sterling Morton was the organizer of that first event and over one million trees were planted in Nebraska.  Later, Major Israel McCreight of DuBois, PA, after listening to Theodore Roosevelt’s speaking of his interest in conservation and a national park system, declared that the speeches shouldn’t be directed  only at businessmen, but at schoolchildren.  Gifford Pinchot, head of the United States Forest Service, picked up that ball and ran with it.  On April 15, 1907, Roosevelt issued         the Arbor Day Proclamation to the School Children of the United States about the importance of trees.

You might want to try planting a bald cypress.  They like moist soil.  We’ve got that.

Anyway, check with your local county Soil and Water Conservation District(Every county’s got one, I think.);they’ve got evergreens, deciduous trees, shrubs, flowering & fruiting trees( lots of native plants) at good prices.  Some get sold out early, some get left over and can be picked up for a song.  Last year I got American Chestnut whips and a subscription to the Ohio Nut Growers Association magazine, “In A Nutshell”.  No smart remarks, please.  Just reading about the plants and their characteristics is really interesting.

You can get fish too.  Might need them for the back forty.

 

Out like a lamb?  Maybe a drippy-wet lamb.  Maybe a lamb looking up at the occasional flurries and possible thunderstorms lurking in the wings next  week.  Baaaa! Enjoy it while you can.  Quoting The Old Farmer’s Almanac here, “Showers often; the earth softens.  Sunny and sweet.  Watch out for sleet!”

Sounds  like Winter : Lite to me; a sunnier version of what we’ve had going on since November or so.  The next entry is, “Dry feet.  (around Palm Sunday) A soaking, no joking!  Peepers croaking (Easter)” Well, we have THAT to look forward to.  Those participating in Easter egg hunts might want to bring along a minnow net.  The summer map predicts a hot and dry summer in our area but the specifics of May look pretty damp.  Methinks the Old Farmer is hedging his bets.

I have got bulbs of various sorts that desperately need to get out and sink their little green toes in the dirt—have to wait until the dirt thaws.  I have snowdrops lifting  their shy little heads and looking around the front lawn.  There are two clumps of golden crocus (croci? crocuses?) and one anti-social singleton out there.  I finally took down the Christmas wreath on the front porch pillar.  Spring must surely be here.

“You can step on the flowers but you can never delay the Spring.”—Pablo Neruda

Looking through my latest spring issue of Popular Science , I’ve spotted a number of interesting items on the page revealing new products available.

How about a transportation gizmo that looks “like the love child of a motorcycle and a unicycle.”  Called the Ryno, it’s a single wheel with a seat and handlebars; a gyroscope and accelerometers (whatever they are) keep the rider upright.  Speeds up to 10mph may be reached by leaning forward.  What a hoot!  Can you just see people buzzing around town on these machines?  No mention of how many miles per gallon but it would have to be amazing.  Don’t believe they’re quite “Turnpike-ready” but a little plaza-cruising would not be out of the question.  Drag racing with riders really dragging off the machines running  on their own!  $5300

The world’s first beer-flavored jelly beans have been produced by the Jelly Belly people.  It is, apparently, a Hefeweizen-style confection, has no alcohol, and can be paired with a Red Apple jelly bean to approximate  an apple cider shandy(beer mixed with apple juice or a soft drink or lemonade, popular in Germany).  You won’t see a Budweiser commercial for this one next Super Bowl.  $8.99/lb.

Here’s something that you didn’t know that you needed, a cubic rubber band, made by Nendo.  Right, it looks like one of those illustrations in the plain geometry textbook.  There was no indication of how big it is, no scale but PS did comment that it was easier to pick up than the standard round rubber one.  Also mentioned that it might be difficult to shoot the thing.  Too bad, little boys!  $10 (No mention o whether this was for just one or a box of the little buggers, the way rubber bands are usually sold)

How about the Flir One, a thermal imaging device for the iPhone which detects infrared energy from 32 degrees to 212 degrees (freezing to boiling).  Suggested uses include seeing in the dark, locating heat loss (energy assessments, like around doors and windows to determine  ways to reduce your energy use) and cheating at hide and seek.

And, finally, the latest from Kings Island, The Banshee.  This is the world’s longest inverted roller coaster.  Oy! Speaking as one who gets dizzy and suffers from borderline vertigo just looking out of a second story window( I passed up the opportunity to go up in Seattle’s Space Needle and the CN Tower in Toronto.  I was clutching nearby structures at the time), I don’t think that this will be on my summer plans.  Speeds of up to 68mph can be reached (not by me!) in a transit time of approximately two minutes and 40 seconds.  Zoweeee!  No wonder they named it the Banshee (In Irish folklore, a woman who starts to wail when someone is about to die; a messenger from the underworld; a keening woman whose wail can be so piercing that it shatters glass).  The one about to die would be me, were I to, somehow,  be put aboard such a ride from—and to– the pit of Hades.  I have to be with a particularly charming child to get on a carousel, even with a Joe Leonard-carved horse.  The last such contraption that I was on was dubbed the “WildMouse”  and was just about the size you’d imagine with such a name.  Small children ride the roller coaster and wave their hands in the air; I stand on the ground and quiver just watching.EEEEEEEEEEEEOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWWWW!

 

Maplewood, beware!

I’m thinking that the cats—at least some of them—need occupational/vocational counseling.

One of the guys(It’s always the guys)apparently thinks that he is a watchcat, protecting us all from  dangerous gray tiger cats out on the back porch.  He pays no attention at all to the calico incipiently-maternal feline that appears on the front porch.  When  he spots this gray interloper looking in the window, he growls in the fiercest possible manner, from somewhere south of his liver and paces along the top of the handy chair back, hurling threats and imprecations at this creature that had DARED to look in the window.  Sometimes he yowls really loudly and runs to  another window to repeat the whole thing…maybe he’s trying to give the impression that there is a whole cat posse inside here  just itching to get out and make short work of the trespasser.

However, if I open the door, guess who takes off and heads for far parts?  Got it in one.

Then there’s some individual here who is laboring under the delusion that he, or maybe she, is a florist or horticulturist of some sort.  I bought flowers, see, just  because the place could use  some color and some illusion that winter might come to an end someday.   Company was coming and while running the  vacuum was a necessity, it wasn’t real uplifting…so…flowers.  They were O.K. as long as there were people in the house but under cover of darkness, SOMEBODY removed the baby’s breath and fern and the flower buds and blossoms from the vases and strewed them artistically across the top of the buffet and down on the carpet; different  arrangements on different occasions  You haven’t lived until you’ve stepped on something small and soft  and unmoving… in the dark.  It’s a wake-up call, for sure.  This happens every time there are flowers are in the house.  Somebody else is chewing off the leaves on a shamrock plant(Not much Luck of the Irish here) but the miniature daffodils are safe, so far.  The escapades have continued from poinsettias to primroses and roses.  Whoever is doing this is not picky, just determined.  Anything green is regarded as a challenge.

Then again, there’s somebody  around here who is , perhaps, pursuing a career in writing or in interior decorating.  Pens move around.  Papers travel.  The lid to the kitty water fountain downstairs keeps moving off to new locales and the cat food cups can’t be counted on to stay in the same place for more than a day or two.  I don’t use them, honest. I wouldn’t even mind all of this movement, if I could just count on them to clean up once in a while.  Not happening.   One of them has taken to curling up in the bottoms of the drapes.  Certainly picturesque but not really helpful.  A couple, the older ones, I think, make  a point of watching for my return by sitting in the window and watching for the headlights.  This is why the front windows have got nose prints.  The back door has got paw prints, from the littlest guy standing up on his back legs and scratching away at the glass to let me know that he wants out—NOW!  He’s really good at making known his desire to come back in too.  He just stands there staring in…staring with yellow eyes and real intensity.  Never takes very long to get my attention.   This is a smart cat.  When it was REALLY cold, he would go to the door  to be let out and I would go and open the door.  He would put maybe one paw out into the frigidity then turn around, come back in and give me a look which was clearly meant to say, “Are you kidding me?”  Nope.  Still COLD.

And we won’t even start on the soccer players… the balls have bells..games at night.

 

The first department store in Portage County (Chic & Shabby/the Root Store)transformed into a  source for home decorating with a distinctive touch…a craftsman fascinated by and devoted to clocks… a fledgling lawyer, an experienced attorney…the Barber of G-Ville…lawn and garden equipment gurus…a quilt shop drawing craft persons  from all over the state and beyond…a podiatrist…an audiologist…a community food cupboard offering a lifeline to community members in difficulty…tools for every need and every handyman…a dream-come-true shop full of one-of-a-kind items, fun to own, fun to sell…memories…gone.

The Oxford English Dictionary has just come out with its quarterly revisions and additions.  Some nine hundred new words and phrases have now been deemed worthy to grace its pages, some of them pretty far out there.  How often do you wish to know the meaning of Empedoclean? ( Don’t go there.  It’s about some Greek philosopher dude named Empedocles who posited  the theory that all matter was made up of four elements—earth, air, fire, water—and has morphed into a new Empedoclean Evolution theory where change is caused by attraction and repulsion.  It is also connected—somehow—to a so-called Project Mayhem featuring—would I make this up?—Chaos and Pain.   Sounds attractive, eh?)

The Old Farmer says of the month of March (and I quote), “In like a sea lion, cold and wet with fishy breath. Rain to snow and snow to rain—di-si-do and back again!  This month can’t be trusted; the hinge of spring has rusted.”

Mardi Gras, that is.  Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, beginning of the Lenten season.  Carnavale, Carnival, Carnaval, Karneval, Faschtnact/Fasching…whatever your ethnic background, if there’s a shot of Catholic in there anywhere (or even if there’s no Catholicism but a lot of fun-lovers), you may be acquainted with Mardi Gras, one way or another.

SANK!  The word is SANK!  The past  tense of “sink”  is “sank”…”sank”, not “sunk”.  “Sunk” is the perfect tense, which is either being shamefully abused or ignored most of the time by people who ought to know better.  If I have to listen to some talking head on a TV screen or hear a faux-authoritative voice on the radio tell me, “That-there ark Mr. Noah was buildin’ just up ‘n’ sunk on the way to Mt Ararat this mornin’”, I’m likely to scream…as I have been known to do upon other occasions.  Whole bunches of other words have lost any connection to their past, present and future tenses as well.  The word “might” has been kicked unceremoniously aside for the use of the word “may”.  It makes me crazy.

Well, here we go again.  The Mayan “end of the world” didn’t pan out, so, now we can look forward to the Viking Apocalypse.

It seems that in some enormously long poem in Norse mythology written in the 13th century by( Here’s a name to conjure with) Snorri Sturlson, the gods of just about everything and nothing have a whopper of a fight, incorporating three roosters, a giant hound, ravens, eagles, a huge wolf(which eats the sun), a serpent and Lord-only-knows how many other creatures.  The narrative goes on with a fire-breathing dragon and—here’s the connection—the Fimbulnetr, Mighty Winter.  In fact, there are three winters without a summer and just about everyone and everything  go off to hell in a handbasket .  Those Vikings!  What a bunch of fun-lovers!

Well, it inspired Richard Wagner (Twilight of the Gods and all that).

And it sounds like an advertising ploy for some crowd in York, England at the Viking Center where the Jorvik Viking Festival was going on last weekend (February  21-23).  They claim to believe that THE moment will be on February 22 .  Heck, it’s as believable as most of the other end-of-the-world prophecies so far.  And we’ve got the winter part.  Polar Vortices “R” Us!

So it’s a good thing that I went to the Great Big Home and Garden Show before that.  Not a Viking in sight but plenty of other interesting things…beginning with the weather.  It was warm enough that I took my coat off and left it in the car.  When was the last time anybody could do that without risking frostbite?  The I-X Center was in the Goldilocks Zone—not too hot, not too cold, just right—and lots of attendees were without the heavy coats to which we’ve all become accustomed.  Refreshing, I calls it.

The BIG landscape  and outdoor design firms were not totally able to persuade all of the plants in their displays that it really, really WAS actually spring outside.  The primroses fell for that line but a lot of the  shrubs and bushes weren’t buying it; their buds were pretty tightly furled and not terribly green.  There was, as usual, a lot of water,  splashing from fountains, burbling along in faux brooks, trickling over pebbles.  Good thing the restrooms are nearby.  These large companies all adopted themes for their displays—Sicily, Tuscany, etc.  A couple of them decided to get real and went with “Ohio Beer Garden”—co-operating with the Great Lakes Brewing Company—and “Backyard Barbeque”.  Another had a wall-mounted concrete dining table inset with rectangular plots for growing herbs.  You’d have to watch where you put your bread plate but you could use your fork for weeding after dessert.  The really interesting one was the genuine rock garden that had mushrooms made out of some bizarre stone formation mounted on concrete bases—fun fungi.  The Lorain County JVS had a fine entry, the only non-professional one, I think(Over in the Student Model Home Design competition,  Theodore Roosevelt High School in Kent carried the local flag).  My work as a proofreader is never done.  I notified a pair of workers at the semi-outdoor bistro serving lovely meals in the garden section that someone should check the spelling on their boards advertising the fare available.  I can sort of understand missing  pancetta, it’s  Italian bacon that not everyone has ever seen or heard of, but leaving a “p” out of peppers is NOT acceptable and “carmel”( a place in California) is NOT the same as “caramel” (a beige to dark brown confectionery product made by heating any of a variety of sugars—flavoring, filling, topping), as in caramelized onions.  They seemed puzzled that anyone noticed.

As usual, the variety of entries was simply amazing and I set off to see them all…got pretty close.  Full disclosure : I do NOT do Ferris wheels.  The whole, vast space is divided, more or less, into four sections : (1) construction, remodeling & renovation, (2)lawn, garden & outdoor, (3) home décor, household products& services; lifestyle, wellness & recreation (4) arts & crafts, with the Playground World in the center.

The Closet Factory was showing off closet designs that were bigger than my entire bedroom.  There were samples of worm dirt—honest, worm dirt—available in the gardening section, also cute little packets of heirloom seeds of all sorts.  In a triumph of hope over good sense, I purchased several of these, beguiled by the fact that many of them say, “A cold period and light are necessary for germination.” “We’ve got that,”  I said to myself, ignoring the information that  at least 6 hours of full sun per day is also necessary for full growth and my yard could be a playground for vampires, since the sun does not shine there all that often.  Then again, we could just take out all of the trees and replace them with the metal palms—quite fetching ones—available at one spot.  Pettiti’s was sponsoring a fellow speaking about straw-bale gardening—he wrote a book—that looked interesting; it was well-attended by Yankees and Amish alike.  I should have purchased the book.

One of the places that caused a chuckle was the display of Inada massage chairs.  I was heading up an aisle when I looked to my left and there was a array of 15 or so chairs, all with people in them, smiling.  Men, women, Amish, Yankee, older, younger, all looking happy.  One Amish gentleman who , reluctantly, climbed out of one of the chairs and said to me, as he put on his boots, “If I could run one, I’d buy one of those.”  I could run one but I couldn’t afford it.  Would have to put an addition on the house to keep it in; it’s not exactly something that you’d put in the living room.  Looks a little like a torture device.  I tried one out.  I smiled.

Sometimes bon appetit, the 0h-so-upscale cooking magazine, is just too much.
They just assume that everyone has access to—and a budget for—artisan cheeses and spirits, baby organic lettuces, at least four different varieties of milk…and we don’t mean simply whole, skim, 2% and buttermilk…oh no.  You’re deprived unless the shelves boast the lactic fluid of cows, goats and maybe the wild ibex.  There must be soy milk (tough to squeeze those little guys), almond milk (This is a revival from the Middle Ages when nobody had refrigeration and cow’s milk had, basically, no shelf life at all.  Almond milk could be created from ground almonds and water, still no easily-available ingredient at your local castle), coconut milk, rice milk, oat milk, hemp milk(!), or even kefir, a fermented milk product claimed to be pro-biotic (Good for you and your personal internal digestive flora.).    Whole grains of every shape, size and source, honey from Mt. Whatzit, imported Himalayan pink salt…bon appétit loves them all and demands that you have them at your fingertips to follow their recipes.  We won’t even go into the specialized cooking utensils; Martha Stewart is just the same—2” biscuit cutters. 3” biscuit cutters , 11” pans, 14” pans, 6” tart pans, metates—gotta have them all, no substitutions.

Don’t you just every so often look out the window or open the door or read the weather forecast and feel like the little boy  on the  internet the other day?  The little guy must have been about four years old, bundled up to a fare-thee-well in mittens, hat , snowsuit and he was out shoveling snow, clearing the sidewalk or something, the snow was close to knee-high on him, the snow shovel was about as big as he could handle and the flurries were still swirling around.  That’s the picture on the video.  The sound portion was a hoot.  

Curse that groundhog!

Well, it does depend on which groundhog you are going to believe.  The storied Punxsutawney Phil, of Gobbler’s Knob, Pennsylvania, according to his “handler” (like a sports agent, I guess) interrupted his long winter’s nap, peered out of his burrow and predicted six more weeks of winter.  This would NOT be hard to do, given our experiences lately.  On the other hand, our own in-state Marmota monax, Buckeye Chuck, who resides—or burrows—over by Marion, county seat of Marion County, looked out and apparently thought otherwise and indicates that we should be  readying our cruisewear and Speedos for the sunny seasons on the way, chop-chop.  I’m thinking that I will not put away the PolarFleece skivvies just yet.  Ditto for the ultra-soft, lotion-infused tissues.

File under “Sorry we missed this one.”

New Years celebrators in London this New Year’s Eve were treated to  an interesting array of flavored fun-type  festivity-promoters.  Indeed! There was banana-flavored confetti, there were orange-scented bubbles, peach-flavored snow, for starters.  Mercy! 

Here’s your chance to investigate the Mpemba Effect.  There’s a video of some Canadian dude on the internet performing this interesting experiment.  He takes a hard plastic water gun (A Nerf weapon would probably not work; you’ll see why)sucks up boiling water into it (That’s why you use hard plastic) and squirts  the water out into the air. The air, which is just as cold as ours has been, maybe colder, instantly froze the steam into an icy mist almost like snow—instantly.  There’s another one where somebody just flings cupfuls of boiling water out into frigid air.  Same thing happens.

Physicists  and scientists of every stripe, since Aristotle and Francis Bacon, have been arguing about whether and how and why warmer  water will sometimes freeze faster than colder water.  That’s the essence of the Mpemba Effect(Named for Erasto Mpemba of Tanzania, who was a school boy at the time he and a visiting  professor put forward their theory), the assertion that, in some circumstances, warmer water can freeze faster than colder water.  They still haven’t figured it out, though there are plenty of thoughts on the subject.

Fun to watch, in any case.

Sports Illustrated reports that there is now a “Smart Sensor” basketball(94Fifty) full of God-only-knows what kind of sensors, nine of  ‘em, complete with circuit board, battery pack and Bluetooth relay—don’t ask—which will  do amazing things for your mastery of the game.  These sensors are processing whatever it is that’s happening with the ball, at your direction, of course, and they’re doing it in milliseconds…as opposed to your coach yelling from the sidelines, presumably.   The sensors recharge as the ball sits on its very own pedestal. This gizmo can  measure backspin and arc on the ball and analyze the ballhandling being utilized, then spit it out at you from your cell phone or other PDA( personal digital assistant).  The voice that does this is said to resemble that of the President of the U.S.   New applications  and programs are just waiting to be developed by some pointy-headed computer dudes.  

Now that the clock tower lights are lit, Santa has made the first of his (many) local appearances…for lunch, for breakfast, for pizza, etc….it’s time to get down to some serious shopping—preferably local, but wandering off into the exotic every so often.

So, in pursuit of exotica (Try looking that up on the internet some times; Sears & Roebuck , it ain’t), I looked in some recent publications for inspiration.  A couple of the items located were more likely to bring about palpitations than inspiration….  But I digress (and aren’t you surprised to find THAT out?).

I love the Old Farmer’s Almanac…I don’t necessarily take it as gospel but I do love the miscellany of STUFF that is in it.  It is a veritable FOUNT of KNOWLEDGE of various off-beat and semi-useful pieces of information.  I say semi-useful because some of the wisdom that this publication imparts, I would rather not have to actually have anything to do with like the advice on how to break up an animal fight (Cat-scratch fever is real, folks).  I have to admit that I really don’t understand all of the astronomical calculations and tables that are the basis for the weather predictions that It is known for.  I can grasp the hours of sunrise and sunset, moonrise and moonset; I can even determine what zodiac sign is being  highlighted as the location of these celestial travels but I’ll be dipped if I know what the declination of the sun is or whether I care much about the high tides in Boston(The whole thing was originally intended for the east coast; in fact, the front page says, ”Fitted for Boston and the New England states, with special corrections and calculations to answer for all the United States.” )

AND…just in case you’ve been obsessing about the Comet ISON(International Scientific Optical Network—used by some Russian astronomers to first locate this fast-moving wonder) the one thing that most astronomers actually agree on is that it is highly unlikely to slam into the Earth, smashing us all to smithereens…that and the fact that nobody around right now is likely to ever see it again, because it’s heading back out to the Oort Cloud from which it came, out on the fringes of the solar system.  It may or may not survive its perilously close elliptical path around the Sun; it may well be moving at a mind-boggling speed of 828,000 miles per hour.

There ARE drawbacks to having a warm spell this late in the year.  Yes, indeed.

So…I’m sitting in the living room reading the paper; it’s a breezy, balmy (for November, anyway)fifty-something, sixty-something outside.  The room is pleasantly warm enough.  It’s evening, getting dark, I’m thinking about getting to bed early after a day that started fairly early for a weekend.

Then I looked at the cat.  The cat was staring at something in back of me.  They do that.  No wonder some people frequently connect felines with messages from the Great Beyond.  The only thing in back of me was the bookcase adorned with family pictures, some of my wooden boxes–the better-looking ones–and  a few pieces of favorite memorabilia.  None of these things were moving.  What was the cat looking at?  Well, I’m sure I don’t know but that’s when I heard the noise.

The computer strikes again!  Here I am typing away  at my keyboard-in-the-corner, writing  what I’m hoping will be more-or-less reproduced below and—WHAM!  It all disappeared.  Gone! Gone!  Nowhere to be found(Not that I could find it anyway, technological klutz that I am).  Nearly a page of deathless prose lost into the ether of cyberspace.  What’s REALLY irritating about it is that I had started the piece the night before—not something that I often do, being a world-class procrastinator—so that I could have a little “down time” and not be rushed into doing a bunch of the stuff that I suddenly find that I have to do that I had not planned for.  And now this! Grrrrr!  What follows is a reconstruction, to the best of my recollection, of my this-year entry for the Pulitzer Prize.  If the award does not come my way, I’m, blaming it on this glitch.

Weeding and quite a number of other garden/lawn tasks are so essentially mindless that they offer “quality time” for pondering totally unrelated topics that  may have “gotten under my skin”, “stuck in my craw(What IS a craw, anyway?)”, “graveled my gizzard”, “frayed my last nerve”…whatever idiomatic expression you might prefer.  So I’ve been using the time, perhaps not wisely, but well enough.  To wit :

Please pass the rambutan.

Right.  I didn’t know what it was either but it was mentioned in a recent filler article in the R-C.  I’m not sure what’s behind it but there seems to be a rash of “record-setting” events and/or activities of all kinds that seem to be, basically, pointless.  I imagine that the folks down at Guiness must get a tad tired of it all when they get calls to come certify the biggest/tallest/shortest/heaviest/ugliest/ whatever ”est” you can imagine, so that somebody can get in the record books for having   built/grown/climbed/compiled/eaten/run/assembled/produced the item or event or group in question. The whole Guiness Book of World Records, after all, got its start as a means of settling barroom arguments between individuals neither qualified to nor capable of a whole lot of rational thought at the time.  They eventually had to restrict the kinds of items that they would include so as to NOT be involved in dangerous and/or illegal pursuits by those persons whose epitaphs might well read, ”Hey, guys, watch this!” or “Nah, it won’t hurt.”  Or ”Sure, it’s unloaded.”  Or other such feckless statements.

Have another piece of cake, Chubby?

OMG!  New scientific research indicates that obesity is likely about three times as great a factor in mortality rates as had been previously believed, up from 5% to 18%.  Some 78 million people in the U.S. are struggling with the condition…or not.  Some twenty per cent of deaths in the 40-85 yr. age group can be attributed to the consequences–heart disease, stroke, diabetes, sleep disorders, et al. –of obesity.  Bad scene.

Spell Check can’t do everything.
I was at the Farmers’ Market at Robinson the other day.  Small but interesting; an assortment of vendors with  good stuff.  Dave Stotler had Lodi apples, good for the first apple pies of the season.   A lady from Randolph was there with a food truck that had been featured on WKSU’s “Quick Bites”.  Great Harvest bakery from Stow had pepperoni rolls and breads—some on order—available.  A couple of tents had produce of various kinds( One had some plants labeled “Sweet Pea” tomatoes; I was tempted ) tomatoes, squash, the usual.  Mantua Gardens had offerings of their hydroponic lettuces, which looked fabulous, by the way.  Jo’s Kettle Corn was fresh, salty, sweet, crunchy, just what it should be and terribly addicting.  One young woman was working her way through cooking school by—what else—cooking…well, baking, actually.  She had some tasty cookies and I’m always in favor of education, so….  Another pair of entrepreneurs had offerings that they called  “Tiny Treats” or “Mini Munchies” or some such thing, implying that the items were small and tasty, which they were.

“Tis the season!
For just about everything, I guess.  The other day, a container of blueberries and two squash magically appeared on my front porch sitting on some literature from the Jehovah’s Witnesses or some other well-meaning group and next to the comic strip umbrella from the AB-J.  Tasty stuff!  Then the model neighbors on the corner (You know who you are, Wittes) appeared with a tender little summer squash and a trio of blackberries that could have filled half a cup (We’ll never know now, will we?)

My, how Time flies!
Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.
So, if the line above is an example of  a “garden path sentence” or syntactic ambiguity or  a pun, a double entendre or an antanaclasis—well, it would be, wouldn’t it—possibly by that great linguist, Groucho Marx, these recent weeks have been an example of pandemonium! (from the Greek, all demons; a wild uproar)  One thing right after another.
Got the haircut for the class reunion.  Went to the class reunion.  Got new recipe ideas.  Didn’t look like the most infirm in attendance.  Successful reunion.

You know, the saying goes, “Be careful what you wish for.”  Ain’t it the truth!
The Villager took a brief hiatus on the Fourth, giving staff and media stars (That’s you, Benjamin.) a little time to set off and/or observe firecrackers and recoup after all of the frenetic activity of the SummerFest—BEST EVER—and come out swinging for the rest of the summer, which has lots of activities yet to go.  I thought this was great, as I had a(also brief) report on the Annual Conference of the Methodists of East Ohio to give in church on Sunday and a duet of fireworks presentations for the Independence Day holiday(after the SummerFest fireworks on the 29th), following two separate junkets to Playhouse Square to see “Book of Mormon “ and “Guys and Dolls”.  I even missed the retirement party at the PCDL.  Geez, the thought of some down time seemed just fine to me.
But then I just got backed up on the opening events for July.

So…the lightning storm took out the computers—desk top, laptop, probably the remote control for the alarm clock, for all I know—and the Villager deadline is looming on Monday.  What  to do?  What to do?
The schedule is filling up : The computer guru who is working on the problem will be arriving with his bag of magic spells and incantations,( no masks or sacrificial animals) as well as new hardware to replace the fried bits and the ones clogged by cat hair.  There’s a stint as the sous chef for a lunch at church following an untimely funeral.  Evening begins with a rousing session of the regular meeting of the Garrettsville-Hiram Rotary at the Kennedy Center, Hiram College.  Garrettsville SummerFest is coming!  The week end will be full.  Not to mention the Goldfire Realty Tractor Parade, there’s the GRAND PARADE, with Barb Bejger as Grand Marshal.  How GRAND is that?  Rehearsals for the Community Band at Hiram’s Fourth of July festivities.  Two engagement for “the theatah”  this week.  No rest for the wicked, as my dad used to say.

If it isn’t one thing, it’s another…how’s that for original thought?

I went to my computer, the desktop, which is one of the newer dinosaurs, as compared to the iPads and tablets and such, intending to turn it on and get started on my weekly offering of deathless prose and witty repartee before journeying off into the wilds of assembled Methodist doings.  

Just in time for the summer cooking-out season, the Hormel company has now fessed up to producing ten–that’s 10 different kinds of SPAM.  Well, who’d a thunk it? 

It wasn’t pretty.

The brain trust here at the Weekly Villager sallied forth to adventures in orthography by participating in the22nd Annual Community Spelling Bee for Literacy, co-sponsored by the Portage County Literacy Coalition Community Partners at the NEOMED Conference Center on Friday, May 24, 20013.  And fourth…maybe fifth… was about where we wound up…out of five.

That was a fine old time!

Well, if you weren’t trying to get anyplace in a hurry, that is.  The annual Garrettsville community garage/yard/porch sale seems to have attracted quite a crowd for most of the weekend.  Some of the narrower thoroughfares were a challenge for those just trying to get into their own driveways.  Down Park Ave. some savvy shoppers parked up at the Intermediate School then walked down to peruse the situation on Park and Liberty–maybe even Maple and Water, for all I know–before hauling their treasures back to the cars and off to new homes.  

`You thought that spring had come, just because you looked at a calendar and got out your flip-flops and sunscreen (I wear sunglasses all year, so that’s really no indication), not to mention making pool plans.  Think again, Hummingbird-watcher.

I DID hang out four loads of wash on the line to dry; they didn’t even freeze.  Planted several new flowers–I did break down and cover them up when the frost warnings went out, though (Jeez! How could you NOT to that for a Maidenhair Fern?).  Also covered the teeny-weeny tomatoes that are out in my west side pots (I cheated and bought a ”Bush Goliath” plant with a blossom already on it at Home Depot a couple of weeks ago.  Another precocious “Patio Giant” plant has a tiny green orb about the size of a chocolate chip.  We’re going for speed here.).  All of the other greenery has to fend for itself and seems to be doing all right so far.

Just dealing with the medical and insurance issues is enough to send a rational individual(That would be me…no snickering out there) around the bend.

I will be the first to admit that my medical and insurance issues are–knock on wood–WAY less fraught with difficulty than many other folk out there who have to deal with catastrophic situations and illnesses.  BUT… having just spent close to an hour on the phone with some hapless minions caught in the toils of some humongous healthcare corporation recently formed by the consolidation of two merely large healthcare corporations ( The two of them, apparently, unable to get their data systems synchronized), I must say that I miss the “good old days” when I could trot down to  Pelsue Drug in about five minutes, where I could  get something to cure what ailed me in about two minutes and if there was anything untoward about the whole transaction, the friendly, well-informed local pharmacist (Donn Olin or Gary Benes, usually) would call somebody up and get things straightened out before sending me off on my appointed rounds.

The Ohio State University extends itself into every county in the state–all 88 of them.  These are called–what else–extension offices and they offer information, advice and services to local residents.  This can cover agriculture & natural resources, community development, nutrition, family & consumer science, 4-H programs–a whole bunch of things.  It’s the largest non-formal education system in the world.  You can learn a lot there!  

The Kiko folks have taken to putting up signs of this nature along roads where one of their commercial activities is going on, and with good reason.  These secondary highways are plenty full of just plain drivers, let alone the avid auction-goers looking for a place to park–without sliding into a ditch or quicksand (as I found to my dismay).  

Good Grief!  Polar Fleece and long johns, peeps and bunnies with frost on their little noses…er…beaks…er …whatever.  Deep frozen chocolate eggs and jelly beans, rock-hard marshmallow anything.  How crazy has this season been so far?  This is Spring from the old days, the ones where hardy ancestors walked two miles to school every day, uphill both ways, rain or shine, tunneling through drifts, carrying brown-bag lunches that only contained fatback on biscuits but weighed  five pounds, not including the fifteen-pound bookbag.  Those were the days!

How’re you liking Spring so far?

Yes, indeedy, the official astronomical beginning of Spring was on Wednesday, March 20 at 7:02, EDT ( Or 11:02, UTC).  Actually, I lied; according to the Farmer’s Almanac there is no “official” start to any of the seasons.  That all depends upon the climate of an individual country.  It IS, of course, the Vernal Equinox, the date  on which the daytime and the nighttime are roughly the same, at 12 hours each.  It is the date on which the sun rises due East and sets due West.  It is the date on which the sun is directly overhead at noon on the Equator.  It is the date on which the tilt of the Earth’s axis relative to the Sun is zero.  We’re still tilted but the effect of THAT is really what the summer and winter solstices are about; we’re waiting for June 21 now.

Well, going to an auction is often an adventure.  This last one, though, was more than I had bargained for.

First of all, it was being held at what must, surely, have been the last–or nearly the last–farm in Aurora.  I saw a sign –kind of faded–that seemed to indicate that this was once the location of a working sugarbush .  There was at least one good-sized barn and a TON of cars and trucks of all sorts and sizes parked all along Townline Rd., stretching nearly to the horizon where the pavement went up and over a hill.  Vehicles were parked all along the west side of the road; there were signs on the other side directing attendees NOT to park there.  Any utility driveway or flat space was being used as a parking area and there was a driveway heading off through a field with a warning sign saying “4-wheel drive only”…an omen if I ever saw one.

How do I get on these lists?

Bad enough that I get pleas from every animal rescue organization on the planet–puppies, kittens, polar bears, horses, donkeys, whales, big cats, farm animals, exotic animals (I tend to hope that abusers, traffickers and slaughterers will all fry in hell), you name ‘em.  I also get tree-hugger stuff–parks, water, trees, natural resources, pollution control, environmental damage restoration.  Then there are the health issues–Susan J. Komen for the Cure, March of Dimes, American Heart, NAMI, diabetes, cancer, kidneys, blindness, University Hospitals, Summa Health, disease-of-the-month–I get them all.

Well, I just hate it when electrical things get weird and I have to do something about the situation without having a CLUE as to how to approach the problem.

So, I go to start writing another of my pieces of deathless prose for inclusion in The Weekly Villager ( This is something that I do on a regular basis , generally at the very last minute when The Muse–whichever of the nine was on the schedule for that day–shows up to inspire some really fast typing) and –CURSES–the computer had died!  Nothing could induce it to even turn on…not plugging and unplugging, not wiggling plugs, not looking for signs that some cat had loosened–quite unintentionally, surely–some vital connection…zip, zero, nada.  The contraption was as dead as a doornail.

Well, yes, it IS that season of the year when all sorts of disparate groups have their annual Christmas parties.  The barrage has begun already.

Hiram College hosted a seasonal soiree last week for Friends (That’s Friends, with a capital F), faculty types and festive individuals of all stripes, featuring a number of  tours de force by AVI, their supplier of campus food services.  Those folks can whip up a  mean truffle or two…or three or four or five, for that matter–nice selection; they do hand-carved beef or turkey sliders as well, and little savories worth looking for on the circulating trays offered by students working their way through the academic world (Full disclosure : I skipped the opportunity to get better acquainted with the possibilities of Brussels sprouts…saving room for the truffles and cheesecake.)  The jazz combo kept things lively and it’s a high-class affair indeed when the piano player has a Ph.D.(and no tip jar).

Omnishambles.

That, declares the Oxford English Dictionary–OED, to friends and family–is the word of the year, 2012, presumably, though it seems to have got its start in 2009 on a British political satire TV show.  I’m sure you’ve used it countless times since then, right?  It did manage to gain some currency in Europe after Mitt Romney’s goof-prone visit there but was transmogrified ( Isn’t THAT a great word?) into “Romneyshambles”.  

Here comes the Crocodile!
In my role as drama critic for the Weekly Villager (No rest for the wicked, as my father used to say), I recently took in the Baldwin Wallace University Department of Theatre and Dance’s production of J. M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan”.  Quite an evening!
One of the motivating factors for this drama excursion was, of course, the appearance onstage of a “local boy made good”, the inimitable Luke Brett, as Captain Hook.  

So here I am at the BIG FANDANGO at the Longaberger Basket Outlet Store at Aurora Premium Outlets and I’m making a basket…me, Little Miss Craftperson, whose biggest venture into crafts was probably when I used to make  molds out of modeling clay and pour plaster-of-paris horse heads, later hand-painted, as gift items for favored individuals (Mom still has hers).  No, it was not last year. Anyway, there I was, and it was pretty cool.