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“Back in the Saddle Again…Out where a friend is a friend…Where the longhorn cattle feed on the lowly Jimson weed…We’re back in the saddle again….” (Was that Gene Autry?.  Gene had a sidekick named Pat Butram,  I think, who always says said his name so that it sounded more like “artery”. Made him sound like a medical condition. I know Roy Rogers did “Happy Trails to You”.   Roy had a horse named Trigger and a dog named Bullet. Where did Gabby Hayes come in?)  But I digress….

It’s good to be , once again, bringing you the latest news flashes.  The paint has dried!

I don’t know about anybody else on the ol’ Villager Ranch, but I spent a good deal of the “down time” between   the end of SummerFest and the Fourth of July being asked about the results of various competitions and contests (My pies did well!); unfortunately, I had no idea how things all came out.  This week’s edition should enlighten everyone about those basic facts.  The next time this happens—SummerFest being piled upon the Fourth, all higgledy-piggledy—I’m just going to make things up.  In matters of fact, I cannot be trusted.

It WAS quite a stretch there, getting things organized and set up (Thank you crews of every stripe, you were golden.  The seating, the electric wizards, the clean-up forces…ya dun good)as well as the actual events (I’m talking the Garrettsville SummerFest and the Hiram Fourth of July) ;everyone pitching in made a BIG difference.

Kudos to the Eagles, who’ve made their corner of downtown an attractive focal point.  Ditto for Mike Maschek, who’s made an amazing improvement to the “face” of the village by cleaning up the eyesores in back of the old gristmill and gutting the structure so that it can be restored.  The reseeding of the Buckeye Block space is looking good too (The Eagles went ballistic and sodded their territory.  Primo!)  Hiram’s “Old Fashioned Fourth” has lost none of its appeal and even keeps on growing, with the Bloodmobile available and activities for everyone(Music and strawberries are an awesome combination).  The Community Band had a good, solid brass section that tooted and oom-pahed through a varied program with a remarkable cast of all ages. Think about dusting off that old high school instrument yourself for next year(The regular bass drummer needs support and some of the other players—Sax-y Anna is 84—would love to have some too).  It’s really fun.

Good fireworks, both ways  …and a shout-out to Newton Falls for that big time production of lights and sound on the 4th.

And maybe that everyone was all wound up after such a stretch of celebration, but there were sirens—police, ambulance, fire, who-knows-what-all—going off lately at all times of the day and night.  Just wanted to get in on the excitement, maybe.

More Cruise Nights and a Peach Social still on tap for the rest of the summer.

Saddle up, Pardner.

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Well, it’s been a quiet week in Little Garrettsville. (Lake Wobegone was another story)

BUT…things are moving along.

gristmillThe paving over the “grooved pavement” is inching toward finished; there are lines and everything.  Crews are on-site to take down the perennial eyesore downtown which has been “slip-slidin’ away” for –LO!—these many years.  Haz-Mat suits and all, they seem to be doing their level best to beautify the space, which would be improved by making it into just about anything, including parking space.  The Eagles will, no doubt, be pleased if that is exactly what happens there, ‘twill give them more space to entertain the public at their new lawn on the corner—with sod, yet!  Looks like picnic space, for sure.

The Liberty Street Bridge—the one that’s been out of commission for a loooooong time—seems to be likely to open  a tad ahead of schedule, thus ending the aggravation of having to go around on the “grooved pavement” to get to the other side of town.  Here’s hoping that Ohio’s Largest Tractor Parade can be routed  over it when the grand procession comes to an end.  Would make it easier on the traffic planning to get all of the participants back to the starting point at the high school.

Improvements are being made here at the estate.  New plants are going in and most of the old ones seem to have survived the demon winter that we had.  The black raspberries are going gangbusters; they were covered with blossoms and the little green fruits are forming right now.  I did plant them at least partly to make sure that the birds would have plenty to eat but I do think that it would be nice if I were left a few to eat myself.  The ferns were invigorated by something–the cold weather, the timely rainfall, something—because they’re doing a fine impression of jungle foliage all around the house.

Anyone like to have a butternut seedling?  The squirrels were getting ready for a really rough winter, apparently, because they buried all kinds of nuts all over the place and the nuts are now doing their thing and coming up in the middle of flower patches and borders with total abandon.  Butternut trees(Juglans cinerea), sometimes known as White Walnuts, grow rapidly(and don’t I know it), having alternate compound pinnate leaves and oblate, bunched fruits, across most of the northeastern United States and Canada.  Because the soft covering of the nuts is, like walnuts, such a coloring agent(as you would know if you ever were inveigled–willingly or not–into removing the husks to get at the nuts), they were once much used to dye fabric, especially in rural areas.  As a matter of fact, the uniforms of many units of Confederate soldiers in the Civil War were said to be “butternut brown”, and faded to gray as the time of service lengthened.  All of you spinners and weavers out there, here’s your chance to get genuine dye materials right in your backyard.  The wood is softer than walnut, takes polish well and is frequently prized by wood carvers.  The bark was said to have cathartic properties…now there’s a selling point!  Anyway, I have got seedling butternut trees, sapling butternut trees, adult, nut-producing trees.  Any takers?

And speaking of squirrels….  Actually, speaking of chipmunks….  The porch kitties have decided to reward me for my support over the winter by leaving deceased chipmunks—or parts of them—on the steps, on the porches, on the walk, anyplace that these treats can be discovered and admired.  Lucky that I don’t step out on the porch to get the paper in my bare feet.  Surprise!  I don’t even count the mole that was buried between the concrete and the foundation.  I think that some creature was just stashing that away for future reference.

And that’s about it.

Well, unless you count the business opportunity that I spotted in the news the other day; I don’t see a franchise opening here real soon but you never know.

It’s called Rent-A-Gent and it’s about what you might think…or not.  For $200 per hour you can have a “sexy, smart, sophisticated” dude at your beck and call for events such as bachelorette parties, special occasions like openings or charity balls (I get a lot of those).  You can hire a handsome chef, a sexy bartender, a Renaissance philosopher, a musician,  a plumber studying for his Ph.D., whatever.  The founder of the operation, a Ms. Sara Shickhman, says that these guys are on the up-and-up, no gigolos; they are in business in eleven states and the District of Columbia.  She says—from experience—that the hirable hunks are perfect for attending anything where you want to have a hottie dancing attendance on you to make your ex jealous…arm candy to the max!  One of the ad photos shows a group of chicks in pink T-shirts that said, “Don’t support him.  Rent him.”  Some franchise!

 

You know those orange and white saw horses that the ODOT crews used to have marking off forbidden territory when the summer construction season started? (They have up-dated all that now with tall, skinny cones and plastic tape)  An ironic gentleman of my acquaintance once proposed that they   should be designated the state animal…probably because they spent even more time in the road than the white-tailed deer which IS our state animal (The deer’s encounters in the road often end badly).

Anyway, the whole construction thing figured prominently in my most recent highway happenings, beginning with venturing off to the wilds of Huron County to the (very) small town of New London to attend an estate sale.  The sale was O.K., in the end but getting there was an adventure in itself.  I had no recollection of where New London was, even though the high school there had been one of the big rivals that Wellington High School had.  So I went to Wellington (I 480, St Rte 10, U.S. 20, St. Rte 58), picked up my mom and prepared to follow my sister, who had directions.  Only she wasn’t planning to be followed and took off for parts unknown with us tracking  as closely as possible.  You know that Army song, “Over hill, over dale, as we hit the dusty trail”?  It was sort of like that—two-lane county highway, up and down, up and down, trying to keep a small red car in sight.  The auction barn was not that hard to locate—in a park, by the school.  Looked over the merchandise and the crowd—both a mixed lot—then the bidding started and my Scots genes kicked in and I only bid on one item.  Time to go home,(sans Mama, she stayed with my sister) but how?  No need to go back through Wellington.

Whipped out the GPS, punched in my home address and listened in astonishment as it directed me to go in exactly the opposite direction from what I was expecting.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?  So I was off.

St. Rte 60 to U.S.224, bear left to U.S. 42 & U.S.224—OOPS—the GPS lady didn’t mean us to stick with U.S.42.   RECALCULATING.  Turn right onto Holden Rd.,  turn right on Sullivan Dr. turn left onto U.S.Rte 224—OOPS—she didn’t get the memo about that road being closed.  Back up, turn around  . RECALCULATING.  Turn right onto Colby Rd.  Turn right on Fairhaven Rd.  Turn left onto U.S. Rte 224, O.K., we’re good.  Lovely farm country, four-lane highway, out-in-the-country high school…cruisin’. Take exit whatever  to I 71.  All righty then, making good time, interstate speeds.  Take exit whatsit to I 271, still rolling along.  Look!  Up ahead, it’s the turnpike.  Do I have any change or small bills?  Whatever.  Off in Shalersville.  St Rte 44, St Rte 303, St. Rte 88…home.  Total time—even with the detours—just about the same as the usual from Wellington, MPG , a remarkable 42.

Next, a medical run to University Hospitals’ Orange Place facility for blood work (That I just found out can be done now in Garrettsville).  Not wanting to  do a long stretch on the grooved pavement we went from St. Rte 88 to St. Rte 305 up St. Rte 700 to U.S. 422.  ERROR, ERROR.  U.S. 422 is also under construction; two of the four lanes are nothing but a memory, one lane, WITH grooved pavement nearly into Solon.  Not going there again if we can help it.  On the way home, after a successful shopping experience, I decide to take  Chagrin Blvd ( St. Rte. 87) all of the way out to Burton/Middlefield  and come home that way.  WRONG!  The sign, about half of the way out of the big city says “Road closed.  Local traffic only”.   I always want to try those just to find out what the definition of “local” is but not at the risk of winding up in some stranger’s driveway.  So next, we’re turning south, heading east,  turning south heading east, roads sounding familiar, but not really.  Finally emerged onto St. Rte 306 and the edge of Aurora.  Hallelujah.  Grooved pavement ahead but at least it’s going to be familiar grooved pavement.

Then the surprise!  Road crews are working like navvies on the road (St. Rte 82) from the bottom of Derthick’s hill all of the way through Hiram.  Yay!  First thing you know it’ll be real road through Garrettsville all the way to the Trumbull County line.

One last thing contributed to the adventure of it all.  The hatchback lid of the trunk had been a little ”iffy” lately, not latching properly when closed—a little red light comes on on the dashboard, looks sort of like a bug, a car silhouette in red with little doors open on both sides, meaning that something is not secured.  So, the last time I shut the thing, I gave it a significant smack-down.  ERROR, ERROR!  When I attempted to open the sucker next, it was having none of it, not budging, not even jiggling a little bit.  Crawling over the folded-down back seat got me to the lock panel but it was no help either.  The internet revealed that this was a hanging offense for the Honda Corporation a while back, so I’ m hoping that this will be a freebie when we jaunt off to get it fixed this week.

Did the pioneers have these kinds of transportation difficulties?  At least with an ox wagon you could eat the problem.  Of course, next planting season, they’d have to hitch up the oldest child…or the wife.  No, thank you.

 

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Pretty generally, my cats are NOT about excitement.  Mostly, they’re about conserving physical resources, i.e., lazing around, with as little movement as possible.  Oh sure, there is the occasional wrestling match, when one of the “guys” has to show how tough he is(This is the same one who is afraid to go outside when the door is open; he simply likes to beat up on the rest of them.), there’s the one guy who LOVES to play with things and will carry the jingle-balls around to entertain himself with and actually hauled a boxed light bulb up from the basement so that he could chew on and play with it; the three old ladies each have their own sphere of influence—upstairs, downstairs, outside—to hang out in.  Just the other day, Bob, he of the partly-missing tail, smallest of the lot of ’em, had a genuine outdoor adventure.  Well, I describe it as an adventure, he’d probably call it a “near-death experience”.

So, I’m returning home from some expedition or other, just about to turn in to my driveway, when I spot a large dog on the east side of the house, a dog which I’d never seen before, a large dog, with big hair.  As I watched, the dog took off in pursuit of something and out of the corner of my eye, I saw that this object of interest  was Bob, who had been out for his first constitutional of the day before I left.  Whoosh!  Around the back of the house they went, the dog barking, the cat running like a bat from the bad place, between the Brock house and my garage, past the car , across the front lawn, down the sidewalk and by the time I got out of the car, the marauder dog was at the base of a tree, barking, and there was a black cat with a stump of a tail and a ratty, jingle-bell collar up in the tree, rump-first, looking back to see if that big beast was going to follow him up there.

Well, no.  A young man from the family who had just moved in across the street came running up, carrying a box of dog treats (Always keep these handy in certain neighborhoods and with certain pets) and attempting to entice the  dog—I never quite got the name—to return home.  This wasn’t real effective, as the dog was having a fine old time and probably thought that this was just the best game ever since she—I think it was a she—had moved in to this new place.  Every time the young fellow zigged, she would zag, when he went forward, she went back.  Great fun!

Finally, he attempted a grab and she took off; he followed.  I and the other spectators—Alicia and Matthias Witte from down on the corner—went back to rescue Bob, who was still up there.  Easier said than done.  Nobody even thought about calling the GFNVFD, they have better things to do.  I briefly considered the extension ladder; we all just looked up at Bob, who wasn’t going anywhere.  Then Alicia said,” I can get him down.  That tree would be easy to climb.”  And it was too; there was one low-ish, good-sized branch just below where Bob was still hanging on for dear life.  So…up she went and held out a hand to him.  But Bob had had just about enough excitement for one day; he took the short-cut—straight down…and out.  He landed on his feet (Don’t they all?) and took off for parts unknown, not to return until considerably later that evening when the coast was clear and there were no more threatening visitors.  I tried calling him several times( He really does usually come when called) but he waited until it was pretty dark and he had scouted out the territory, besides, he was probably hungry.

Well, it didn’t merit a YouTube sensation like the surveillance video of the cat who saved the little boy from an attacking dog ( The cat later got to throw out the first pitch at a minor league baseball game, not easy when your claws catch on the stitching, I’ll bet) but it was more excitement than we usually get…if we don’t count the uproar the other night around ten o’clock when a strange, wandering dog (Boxerish? Pit Bullish?)with a collar but no tags showed up and drove the two eastside neighbor dogs into a barking/growling/yipping frenzy  (That’ll set   you right up at that time of night, uh huh).  Sounded like somebody was being massacred, no foolin’.  So here I am in my jam-jams, barely shod, clutching a flashlight(Remarkably enough, it had working batteries) hustling out of the house to see who had just died or been horribly dismembered—it was pretty quiet again—and found the Wittes, Alicia and Dad, Mark, holding on to the aforementioned dog  who, basically, wanted to play…or at least go for a run.  Somebody had taken in the other dogs who had been involved in the commotion and we were back to as close to normal as it gets here.  Called the police at my house, they said no missing dogs had been reported.  I kept the dog while the Wittes went home to be sure that their dog, Max, was in and quiet, then let the intruder go, hoping that she’d head home.  Apparently she did; we heard no more that evening.  Hope she did not enjoy the experience and will not return.

Other than that, the biggest excitement has been all of the transplanting and lawn work and the fact that I finally got the kitty condos off the front porch and the people-seating on.  The usual.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The Earth laughs in flowers.”

Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha !!!!!

 

 

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If Jack-in-the-Pulpits are any indication, my yard is a veritable vegetation revival!  Nothing in the bulletin  tells  what the message is.  They’ve popped up in the front, the back, the side lawns.  They’ve out hustled even the ferns.  They’ve beaten the trilliums, hands down.  Wonder what got into them all of a sudden.  Maybe the ferocious cold that knocked off a bunch of the other stuff (at least one azalea, a rhododendron, my “Little Henry”—Itea  virginica—Virginia sweetspire, and who knows what else), has inspired the Jacks to new homiletic heights.  “Preach now!” I say.

Anyway, aside from letting the lawn get to near baling-height, I really have been out there putting in new stuff and trying to root out—literally– some of the unwanted stuff that has shown up.  I even spent time the other day over at the village maintenance building—after supervising the bridge reconstruction(How do those people manage without me?)—pulling out some of that invasive garlic mustard down along the creek.  There are places along there that are just a tad too steep for a refined type who will never see early middle age again but I did cause quite a lot of it to turn up little green toes and, presumably, die…we can only hope.

In my own patch, I’ve been digging out Sweet Violets.  They were an effort to cover up the ugly foundation of the old garage which must have been built somewhere in the late nineteen twenties or thirties ( I haven’t asked next-door neighbor John whose grandma lived in this house when it was first built.  She must have been a martyr)because it was only about as long as a Model A and had been added on to so as to accommodate a Nash Rambler or something.  The foundation, such as it was, featured refractory brick rejects from Harbison-Walker and a near-immortal forsythia bush and all of its relatives.  I thought violets would cover a multitude of sins and, besides, there’s that song, “Sweet Violets” that Dinah Shore—among others—recorded (Sweet violets, Sweeter than all the roses, Covered all over from head to toe, Covered all over with Sweet Violets)in 1951.  Not that a mere slip of a girl that I was at that time would remember.  A slightly raunchy version used to be sung on athletic team buses(girls’ teams…boys don’t sing stuff like this on buses) and it stuck in my mind, O.K.?  Be that as it may, when the new garage arrived and the addition to the house went up, dirt moved everywhere; I figured that that greenery was a goner and we’d start from scratch.  WRONG.

The violets showed up unannounced and proceeded to make a nuisance of themselves.  They’re NOT your usual “shrinking violet”.  THOSE violets are just fine with me.  The new guys have variegated leaves and they smell bad.  Variegation I can countenance, the smell bad part, not so much.  So they’ve been relegated to a patch on the east side where something is needed to anchor the slope and crowd out the  really weedy weeds, invasives and such.  The only thing that keeps them from sneaking back to their old haunts is to go after them with a trowel and take out as much root (They’re all interconnected) as possible.  Makes your hands smell bad.

The forsythia is resurrected as well but is so far under control.

Meanwhile, I’ve been plugging in some new plants, several of which I’ve never heard of or seen before, Tricyrtis Tojen and Tricyrtis Blue Wonder, for example.  Guaranteed to grow, it says on the package.  We’ll see about that.  It also says partial to full shade, which is just about all of my yard, especially in the back, and it says blooms late summer.  That makes them good to fill in between the tulips and the fall foliage.  All too often there’s kind of a lull when there’s nothing but green…which IS good but kind of boring.   The pictures on the packages make the blooms look almost orchid-like.  Whoa!  This is going to be big time competition for the Spring Beauties and the mystery flowers that look like disappointed tulips.

I bought some Lady’s Mantle at the Garden Club plant sale.  One of the reference sites called it Alchemilla mollis and one called it Alchemilla vulgaris; both of them said that it had medicinal properties but neither one was real specific about what it was supposed to be good for(Maybe the vulgaris part was a clue). Hang-overs?  Toothache?  Female troubles (Aren’t they men?)?  Anyway, it should have chartreuse flowers and perk up a boring spot.

My tomato plant looks promising.

The Eastern Wahooo that I got from the PCSWCD looks to be doing fine; the witch hazel should make it; the sassafras and Carolina beautyberry may soon be receiving last rites.  This “back-to-nature” bent can get kind of complicated.  The birds had just better appreciate the effort here next winter.

And speaking of birds….  DO NOT kiss your chickens.  The CDC indicates that this practice seems to have been the source of a number of outbreaks of Salmonella across the country, particularly in small-time ,backyard flocks (Perdue doesn’t kiss its chickens, I’ll bet…I sure wouldn’t).

Do chickens have lips?

 

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Well, now, THERE was a week!

Elections on Tuesday.  It was heartening to see that our precinct (Garrettsville A) was up over the prediction of the Board of Elections, not much,  but every little bit helps.  I think that Garrettsville B was over too but I didn’t check.  It’s also neat to see so many former students whom I exhorted in the seventh grade to step up to their civic duty and vote(“If you don’t vote, you don’t complain.”)  Not that I can take all of the credit, their parents were there too.  So that was good…and the parks issue passed too…Whoopeee!

Then Wednesday I finally found an auction that I could get to, a biggie.  So, as it turned out I was NOT the only one who got that memo.  The cars and trucks were parked  on the side of Sheldon Rd. for probably three-quarters of a mile on either side of the driveway to the auction site.  The driveway itself was likely a quarter mile long, so anyone going to the sale got in a fair amount of exercise just getting there.  The notice in the paper said that the folks who had lived there were collectors and the notice did not lie; those people had a little bit of all kinds of things and a whole lot of some others.  Antique furniture,  pictures of horses, pictures of long-gone relatives(of somebody, who knows who), pictures of landscapes, there was even an advertising picture of “the Peerless Girl” (in driving attire—hat, duster, glasses—very elegant.)  one of a set of possibly twelve young ladies.   A new girl appeared every year with the new model Peerless automobile  until the Cleveland , Ohio company succumbed to the Great Depression.  Each one was a pretty spiffy-looking young lady just waiting for someone to come by in a Peerless automobile—Barney Oldfield, maybe?  He drove their Green Dragon racing car.  People collect the antique prints of the gals but no one has ever found a print of # 12, so she may not be out there.  Anyway, somebody got this one and it wasn’t me.

There were two auctioneers going at the same time which means that one has to scout around to try to determine where the most interesting stuff is located.  Plenty of evidence that the owners were, indeed, collectors.  I did spot some wooden boxes, some little stools and side tables, miscellaneous knick-knacks (Oh yeah, I need more of those!)worthy of some attention and just kept circulating.  One of the attractions of estate sales like this is that a person can wander around in somebody else’s house.  This was a very large new house, built to look like an old one.  One look at the bathrooms( Yes, more than one), the kitchen and the closets (One walk-in per bedroom, plus linen and storage) and it was totally clear that this was NOT an old house.  I paid no attention to the two or three tractors and/or garden tractors OR the Honda Element and went back to the watch on boxes.  The pile I had my eye on also had a wood and brass antique level in it.  That’s what caused the mix-up.

The auctioneer picked up the level, described it and started the bidding.  I thought that I was bidding on the whole pile.  HE was selling me the level.  Oops!  When I went to take away the pile, after having won the bid, it was pointed out to me that I had the level, not the boxes, and another bidder had purchased the boxes.  Awkward.  The auctioneer was good enough to cancel my transaction and resell the level; he didn’t have to do that, and later I approached the guy with the boxes and managed to get him to part with three of them that I wanted.  Look on my kitchen shelf for a container with the words “cultivated dew worm farm” printed on the side.

Then it was off to the band banquet and recognition ceremony on Wednesday evening and the school groundbreaking on Thursday.  Friday was open.  Whewww.

Saturday I was out and about taking pictures of the various demolition/construction projects around town—the Liberty Street bridge, the curbs on St. Rte 82, the Buckeye Block fire clean-up.  That last one did me in.

I’m walking around the back by the truncated former parking lot, outside the fence, when the reason for those heavy boots that the demo guys wear became crystal clear.  Yup, a nail—a rusty, grungy-dirty nail—came through the bottom of my tennis shoe.  Luckily, it just grazed the bottom of my foot but the red mark was not clearly distinguishable as either a wound or a bruise.  When was my last tetanus shot?  Good question.  Got no time for lockjaw.  Well, then, it’s off to Urgent Care.

Do not trust your telephone book in looking for such a facility.  They lie.  When friend Becky found the correct information online, I got the hours and took off…after having washed my foot and doused it with peroxide.  “Urgent Care” seems sort of like a misnomer.  Nobody there seemed to be into “urgent” at all.  The receptionist was totally pleasant, gave me papers to fill out, some people left; I was glad that I had brought the Reader’s Digest.  Nothing moved.

I was eventually ushered into an exam room which had the approximate temperature of a meat locker and eventually a diminutive South Asian-type physician came and looked at my foot , asked a few pertinent questions and went off to write a prescription for an antibiotic and to send in somebody else to give me a tetanus shot.  Have to say, the shot-giver was good at her job.  Minimal hurt.  No lingering ache.  Good to go.

Called my mother on Sunday.  Heard about the demise of her refrigerator and its imminent replacement.  Planted flowers.

I don’t think that the meeting of The Friends of the Library this week can hold a candle to all that.

We’ll see.

 

Open your mouth and say , “Aaaah”

Do physicians even DO that any more?  Well, according to an item in the Akron Beacon-Journal, you should not hand over your money before the doc sticks anything in your mouth.  That’s because  some researchers at New York University have discovered an absolutely stunning collection of bacteria,   viruses (Or viri?  Nope, virus has no plural in Latin), fungi (Now there’s a plural!) and plant pathogens on dollar bills… not to mention traces of anthrax and diphtheria.  YUK!  They uncovered—so to speak—all of this by using high-speed  gene sequencing and computerized data-base analysis on about 80  $1 bills from a Manhattan bank.  That George Washington you’re carrying around may have more than 3000 kinds of bacteria, your gateway to skin infections, stomach ulcers and other assorted afflictions of the flesh.  They found some 1.2 billion (Yes, that’s Billion) segments of DNA, about half traceable to humans.  Of the remaining material, about 20% could be identified.  O.K., that leaves 30%, give or take, not attributable to anything in particular.  Are we seeing  ALIENS panhandling on the corners here?  Yetis?  Abominable whatevers?  We’re talkin’  DIRTY money.

And in that same vein…you should pardon the expression… the latest news in competition sports is the Tough Mudders.  One description of the “sport” goes like this : “Tough Mudders are hardcore 10-12 mile(18-20 km) obstacle course challenges designed to test strength, stamina, mental grit and camaraderie—probably the toughest event on the planet.”  Oy!

A  couple of guys founded the whole thing in 2010, got about 4500 nutjobs to participate and it’s grown from there.  A rough estimate of the number of crazies having taken part so far hovers in the neighborhood of 1.3 million.  In 2013 the number of players reached somewhere around 700,000.  The company (What, you thought it was just a bunch of guys—it’s always guys, right?—who get together to get “down & dirty” crawling through mud and ice water?) which organizes and officially sanctions events is worth $70 million and has classified the competitions as Arena, Backwoods, Open Range, Off-road, , Mountain and Muscle.

The twenty to twenty-five different obstacles are presented as challenges to some of humans’ greatest fears—fire, water, electricity, height.  About seventy-eight per cent    of competitors finish the course.  Depending upon the course, a player can be facing dangling live electric wires, vats of ice chunks, water and other substances you don’t want to know about, greased monkey bars over ice pits, walls to scale, pipes to crawl through, planks to walk.  Oh, it’s a lot of fun!

Both individual and team competitions are part of the deal; male and female “Tough Mudders”   get into the thing but the predominance goes, of course, goes to the guys(Female “mudders” are already tough).  There are sponsors sometimes—Under Armor, Degree (Wouldn’t you know a deodorant would get into it?), Bic (What?  To take notes?), Wheaties (These pictures will NOT make the front of the cereal box), Dos Equis, Clif Bar—and usually some kind of a charity affiliation, often military-related.  Prizes are popping up occasionally.

And how’s all of this like the money?  All good clean fun, right?

Well, there seems to have been an outbreak, O.K. maybe more than one outbreak, of some really, really ugly intestinal disorders, caused by norovirus, for one.  This may have something to do with the fact that at least one of the competitions was WAY too close to an agricultural installation  and the mud involved was, shall we say, enhanced by unplanned substances.  Then, of course, you never know what that dude suffering next to you was infected with before the two of you were submerged in ice water.  DO NOT swallow the mud!

And, lastly, on the medical front– SPOILER ALERT for Prince Charming—it is now possible  to get what some podiatrists and orthopedic surgeons are calling “Cinderella surgery”.  “If the shoe fits, wear it,” has gone to a whole new level.

Women—wealthy ones, anyway– are having surgeries to make their feet fit their shoes, not the other way around.  Manolo Blahnik, Nicholas Kirkwood, Christian Louboutin, all high-end shoe designers, have opened  economic horizons for the medical profession by designing shoes that women cannot wear without either pain or reshaping of their feet.  Got “high heel foot”, “hitchhiker toe”, “toebesity”?  This can be dealt with  by getting a Perfect 10 (toe shortening), a Model T (toe lengthening) or a foot tuck(fat pad augmentation).  Don’t EVEN call it a bunionectomy any more.  It’s a “facelift for your feet” so you can fit into heels.  Don’t go for toe liposuction or pinky toe removal, those are stepping pretty close to unethical.  The originator of these procedures, Dr. Ali Sadrieh, says that it’s about a lifestyle choice and projecting confidence; a hallux valgus correction with osteotomy and screw fixation means that one can put on and wear a shoe that did not fit comfortably before.  What IS a stiletto after all, but a knife?

Ugly stepsisters, here’s your chance!

 

Once, many years ago, I ran across a book with the title, Hollywood Is A Kosher Nutburger.  I think that I read it but who knows.  At any rate, it struck me that it was a fine shorthand for “This place is nuts!”

Well, the news lately—internet, the comics,  the news pages, magazines—all of it, is proof that  while time may march on, things are still really STRANGE!  For example:

New research has revealed that , monthly, Google has been used to find out “how to hide a dead body” at least 1000 times; “how to get away with murder” came up 1900 times and… the winnah is…40,500 queries on “why did I get married?”  Now there’s a “Dear Abby”  moment for you!  Might want to pair these pieces of information with a new app called Cloak which will alert you, via your cell phone or other mobile device, that your ex-friends, ex-lovers, bill collectors or other personally undesirable individuals are in the neighborhood.

Also having to do with, the internet, I got some kind of a scam thing going on which, when I hit the “information” button, took me to a website for Hildegardisschool, a Dutch elementary building in the Netherlands. Nothing wrong with little Dutch boys (Don’t they make paint?) and girls(She did cleansing powder, right?) but their connection with Bank of America must be tenuous, at best.

There’s a model somewhere out in La-La Land who’s suing Playboy Magazine and a Los Angeles radio host for “pain, suffering, worry and anxiety” because the dude was, apparently, not quite the golfer he thought he was when he attempted to hit a golf ball teed up on the young lady’s nether parts…he missed   and left her good side in bad shape.  She protests that she never thought(Well, duh, that’s obvious) that he would actually try to hit the ball.  Playboy sponsored whatever very refined event it was where this exhibition took place.  She’s seeking $500,000, according to a snippet in The Week magazine.

Here’s an interesting heads-up from aol news oddments about some of the more unusual names being given to children recently.  I’d read   the “Nevaeh” (Heaven, backwards) before but this one was ‘way past that.  What was it? Zzyxz.  Yup, Zzyxy.  How about them apples(That’s what Natalie Portman  named her little child, isn’t it? I think her other one is Moses.  Not so bad).  There’s a teacher’s nightmare, having a kid with a name like that show up on the roster with no clue how to pronounce it.  Now, personally, I would guess that Zzyxz would be pronounced “Zicks”, but the entry for this particular christening curse is to be “Zay zix” .  That better for you?  Good grief!  The things that people will do to poor defenseless children!

How about deep sea diving in a wheelchair?  Got to give the lady doing this particular challenge credit for guts but I’m a little confused as to the point of it all.  Sort of falls into the “Annie Oakley” song “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better” category, I would think.

And the things that you can find in the dictionary!

How about emetiphobia?  Wikipedia defines this as “an intense, irrational fear of or pertaining to vomiting.  Well, there you go!  Who hasn’t wrestled (sometimes   literally) with that one while waiting in the wings to do something that you got finagled into or foolishly agreed to (Just like the model above) never dreaming that it would come to THIS.  Sub categories include being at a VERY posh occasion with a touch of “Delhi Belly” or “Montezuma’s Revenge”.  What’s so irrational about that?  One researcher says that some people afflicted thus have trouble “comfortably leading a normal life .”  D’ya THINK?

And finally, I’ll bet that al most everybody out there has, at some time, suffered through a bout of sphenopalatine  ganglioneuralgia.  And you didn’t even know what it was!  You did know that it hurt, however, as you slurped up that ice cream cone after winning the ballgame or bit into a big chunk of DQ ice cream cake or chugged  a Slurpee from the Seven –Eleven.  Yup.  It’s the brain freeze, caused by super-cooling the back of your throat where there’s a whole pack of nerves that go straight to pain receptors in your brain.  Just like the express line, no waiting!

There’s more where this all came from.  Stay tuned.

This could be a vegan Bar-B-Q

 

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O.K., it’s Thursday, this must be springtime.

Holy cow!  What a wild one!  Haul out the long johns, Maudie, the daffodils done froze!  And what does the Old Farmer say?  Not much.  But you’ll be happy to know that on April  18, 2009, Aaron Caissie set a world record by balancing 17 spoons on his face.  Now there is a skill set!

I went out last week —one of the times when it was warm, remember—to poke around in the back yard to assess what might need to be done, and  I have decided that this place is a big-time cafeteria setting.  There are nut trees in the back, so the squirrels, when they’re not raiding the bird feeders, are sitting on various branches( front OR back yard) to chow down and fling their remainder nutshells all about; they litter.  But HOW do they get those shells open?  Walnuts, butternuts, hickory nuts…they’re all pretty tough to crack without the use of an iron anvil and a major hammer.  Yet the squirrel, and maybe a chipmunk or two, can get those buggers open using just their little, spidery fingers/toes…in addition to some prodigious teeth.  What’s THAT about?  Lots of the shells show up with gnawed      holes in them but plenty are just perfectly halved with the insides gone.  I often save them, just because I think that they are so elegant-looking.  What a design!  Rough on the outside, smooth on the inside, curved and mysterious.  Had I any rustic craft chops, I would surely mount some sort of a display but so far, I’m just collecting.

Anyway, I’m out pulling up invasive plants—there are more of them all of the time, it seems, result of “global connections”, no doubt…that and STUPID people, the same ones that have Burmese pythons as pets then when the reptiles get too big(that would be about six inches, in my book) they turn them loose in the Everglades, where they have no predators and proceed to terrorize and devour the native flora and fauna and grow to enormous size—and a mosquito(family : Culicidae) who had waked especially for the occasion settled down for a sip of my vital fluids made the mistake of stomping his feet hard enough that I actually noticed him.  Smack!  End of meal.

The forget-me-nots are coming out to take the place of the crocuses, which are on their last legs.  The snowdrops must be chuckling at the recent turn of events…either chuckling or shivering.  The spring beauties are showing up in singles and pairs, scattered around.  Some little blue-flowered spikes have appeared in places that I did not put them.  The two volunteer Easter lilies have just peeked their shoots up to get the lay of the land but they are surely not going to make it to see The Bunny any time soon.  There seem to be some ex officio excavations around where SOME critter has dug up bulbs for a midnight, or mid winter, snack of some sort.  Not much like cold pizza but, hey, no delivery charges.

The flowering crabapples to the west of the drive apparently were not to the taste of any of the local scavengers; the deflated fruit is lying around on the ground.  SOMEBODY must eat them eventually, otherwise, I’d have little tree-lets all over the place.  So far, this has not happened but I’m keeping my eyes on the possibility.  The berry bushes must be supporting  wildlife of some kind, because I sure didn’t get a single pie’s worth last season.  Some of them were attacked by a mosaic mildew infestation, which I hope to get rid of at some point.  In the meantime, I’m still looking for pick-your-own patches to restock my freezer.

Pussy willows are showing their catkins .

Speaking of which…anybody want a kitten?  One of the porch kitties is doing a calico caricature of the Goodyear Blimp and looks as though we’re going to hear the pitter-patter of little paws pretty soon.  She’d love to sneak inside to make her maternal donation but so far I’ve managed to shut the door fast enough to forestall that ambition.  The local candidate for paternity seems to be mostly black but there are also gray tiger and pale orange/ginger ardent swains in the neighborhood.  Heck, she could have been hooking up on Face Book, for all I know.  Adoption line forms to the left.

Not long ‘til May.  Go to a track meet.  Plant a tree.

 

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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!  

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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.