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`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.

In times like these, good decisions matter. And when it comes to protecting a portion of your income from disability risks, it’s important to base your decision on the facts. In the case of disability, some of those facts might surprise you.

For example, more than one-quarter of today’s 20 year-olds will become disabled before they retire.1 And if you are covered by a group disability income policy through your employer, you might not know about the likely gap between your policy’s benefits and your family’s actual needs.

To start with, the typical group plan only covers 50-70% of income. And benefits are often taxable, have maximum limits, and don’t cover bonuses, commissions or 401(k) contributions. In some cases, worker’s compensation helps bridge the gap, but less than 5% of disabling accidents and illnesses are work related. 2

If you run a business, your insurance protection should help cover its operating costs, possibly provide the funds for a partnership buyout, and protect a portion of lost earnings – either yours or your employees’.

The most common way to close the gap between existing coverage and actual needs is to obtain a supplemental individual disability income insurance policy. Because you own it, you can take it with you throughout your career.

And the best way to make a good decision about that policy is to work with a trusted, trained financial professional. No surprise there..

© 2011 Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, Springfield, MA.

 

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As I type, my dog is in her bed, snoring her head off. The even sounds of her snores work as a sort of white noise machine, making it hard to feel anxious of my impending work deadlines. It also brings to mind the subject of voices we each hear in our own heads. Not the voices that urge you to send a lengthy manifesto to the Oval Office, or the ones that convince you to don a tin foil cap to keep aliens from reading your thoughts. I’m referring to those voices we each hear every time we’re confronted with a situation where we know what we WANT to say, but we also know what should be said. There are certain lines we all must decide if and when to cross.

As the moon goes to bed, the sun comes up

And here we meet a sleepy pup,

Who was walking through G-ville one bright sunny day,

Then saw The Villager and decided to stay.

 

The rain had finally calmed to a slow drizzle and Doodle Dog decided he’d had enough of this hiding-inside-business. Wet or not, thundering or not, scary or not, the floppy-eared puppy was going to venture outside and face the stormy rain once and for all.

Well, maybe…

As Doodle Dog poked his nose out the front door of the office, a heavy stream from the gutter overhead gushed down suddenly, soaking the tiny buds peeking out of the mulch in the flower beds and painting the front steps dark with a fresh coat of water. Maybe the porch was far enough, Doodle Dog thought. And so he stretched out his front legs and settled onto the soft welcome mat safe under the sturdy roof of the porch. Getting comfortable on the mat that was just the size of the little floppy-eared puppy, Doodle Dog curiously peered out across the wood plank floor, over the low railings and through the open space between the two decorative pillars that were not only pretty but that served a very important purpose – holding up the roof! Doodle Dog’s gaze continued on past these very pretty, very important pillars to the street and the sidewalk that bordered it, and curiously watched the hustle and bustle that didn’t even halt one little bit despite the sort of gloomy, sort of drippy, sort of just plain yucky weather.

I am always on the lookout for a unique wine, unique label, unique bottle or unique wine accessory. So last week we had the opportunity to pour our wine at WineStyles in Howland. They have a monthly wine tasting where you can sample 5 sweet wines or 5 dry wines while shopping some great vendors. It’s a great wine shop filled with an unbelievable number of wines.

But what I really liked about the sampling was some of the unique wines they featured. My favorite that night was a white Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir is usually served as a dry red wine or now that summer is almost here you can find some great Pinot Noir rosés. Unlike a White Zinfandel or White Merlot (both are actually blush in color) this White Pinot Noir is truly a white wine.

So when they poured Graffi’s White Pinot Noir I was so excited to try this wine. WineStyles had listed it as “Crisp” and I was shocked to taste how refreshing this wine was. It had an amazing green apple flavor and a smooth finish which is the complete opposite to a regular pinot noir. For a usually red wine I couldn’t believe how clear this wine turned out and how flavorful is was.

Now many of you might be wondering – how did they make it white? Well all wines are technically white when you press the juice from the grape. To give it the blush and red color the grape skins are added to the juice to allow the juice to extract the color from the skins. Depending on how light or dark you want the wine to be the skins are removed after a couple of days to a couple of weeks. However, if there is no skin contact the juice is fermented as a white wine.

So if you are looking for a unique wine for this summer or a great way to trick your friends, I highly suggest you check out Graffi’s White Pinot Noir.

 

Amanda is the Co-Owner of Candlelight Winery located at 11325 Center Road, Garrettsville. For more information on other winery topics, please visit www.candlelightwinery.com

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.

By this time of year the seed catalogs, fruit tree catalogs, and various outdoor planting publications are all dog eared, paper clipped, or marked in some fashion. You have been working on re-doing your landscape, making sketches, imagining what this would like here, and that there. Is this shrub or tree going to have the desired effect? The sun is shining, the snow is gone, the days are getting longer, and maybe, just maybe, you can go out and work in the yard. But have you made the correct decisions? Are you being a good steward? You want to attract birds and create natural areas on your property. Are you planting an invasive species? Just because you buy it from a catalog or a nursery doesn’t mean it is going to be right. If you have Autumn/Russian olive, Privet, Honeysuckle varieties, Buckthorn, Asian Bittersweet, Burning Bush, Barberry, Norway Maple, Callery Pear cultivars, Ribbon Grass, Periwinkle, Myrtle or Purple Loosestrife in your plans you have made the wrong decision! 

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!  

It is an exciting time for us in the vineyard! We are starting to see some swelling in the vines which means that we should be seeing bud break in the next couple of weeks! The next couple of weeks are a perfect time to start planting a vineyard if you want to try grape growing!

What is the sign of a good decision?®

It’s putting what’s important to you first.

Did you realize that your assets owned at death are generally subject to federal and state taxes?

A significant percentage of your estate may go towards tax liabilities. Unless you plan ahead, your legacy becomes open to public scrutiny through the probate process.

There are steps you can take to help make sure that your loved ones, possessions and passions are taken care of in the manner you wish, and that your affairs remain confidential.

Plan ahead

When thinking about the future, consider how family will be cared for, who will inherit property, and how assets will be distributed.

• What happens to your property after you pass away?

• How will loved ones maintain their standard of living?

• How will your estate pay final expenses and taxes?

• Can your taxable estate be reduced with lifetime gifting strategies?

• How may the transfer of your assets be impacted by federal gift and estate tax guidelines?

A well-designed plan can provide you a way to accumulate, conserve and protect your assets during your lifetime. At the heart of many estate and tax plans, is a versatile tool called a “Trust.”

A “Trust Agreement” is a legal document that establishes a Trust and enables it to hold property for the benefit of a third party.

A common technique to minimize estate taxes involves an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT).

A properly structured and administered ILIT may keep your life insurance policy’s death benefit out of your estate, so proceeds will benefit the people and places you care about most.

Address concerns

Trusts can help you address your most important concerns. You may be able to provide income for the people and places that matter the most, while minimizing estate taxes and providing funds for estate settlement costs. In addition, you may be able to shelter assets from creditors, and continue to maintain influence over distribution of your assets after death. By avoiding probate, you can keep your financial matters private.

Create “Trust”

Trusts are legal entities involving three parties: grantor, trustee, and beneficiary. As the grantor, you craft the trust document with help from experienced trust specialists, and provide the assets.

You also determine the beneficiaries or the individuals or groups (such as church, charities or colleges) who will be recipients of benefits.

You then choose a trustee to manage the assets in the interests of the beneficiaries you name.

The trustee is responsible for following your wishes as expressed in the Trust Agreement. You can name a relative or friend as trustee. Many people select a professional trustee as sole or co-Trustee with a family member. Professional Trustees such as The MassMutual Trust Company,FSB, offer: investment planning, diversification and oversight, tax reporting and preparation, prudent asset management and distribution, fiduciary account management and client reporting, access to investment services for individuals, families and businesses, and bill payment.

Exercise control

Many children may not be mature enough to handle a large inheritance at age 18, or even 25.

With a Trust, you could choose to have distributions made in small amounts over time.

Start planning

Having a better understanding of how a trust can provide tax advantages and help you manage and control the accumulation and distribution of your assets over time, puts you in a good position to start planning for the future. Now might be the right time to think about what’s important to you, and the legacy you want to leave to your family and the people and places you hold most dear.

Call your financial advisor today and start the conversation.

© 2011 Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, Springfield, MA.

 

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).  

How many of you have thought to yourself that owning a winery or a vineyard would be an awesome opportunity? I know I thought that! But when we first started talking about owning a winery or growing grapes we really had no idea where to start. Sure, we loved making wine and we had a couple of vines in our backyard but we didn’t really understand what it meant to be a commercial winery.

Ahhhhh! Spring is here, spring is here, spring is here! Doodle Dog thought as he bounded down the sidewalk through town. Spring is here, spring is here, spring is here! Doodle Dog thought as he dodged a row of melty puddles made by the dripping mounds of snow that, although they were still here, were no longer massive mountains of mush and were quickly melting into miniature versions of their previous selves. Despite the remaining evidence that winter was not yet willing to take its annual vacation, it was also obvious that spring was coming whether winter and all of its piles of snow and ice liked it or not. In fact, spring wasn’t just coming, spring was here!

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!

1. DROPS HAPPEN – Since the S&P 500 bottomed on 3/09/09, the stock index has gained +130.1% through the close of trading last Friday 3/22/13 (change of the raw index not counting the impact of reinvested dividends).  Even though the index has more than doubled there have been 13 different pullbacks of 5% or more since the 3/09/09 bottom.  The average depth of the pullbacks has been 8.7% over an average of 21 days.  The deepest tumble was a 17.2% drop over the 24 days that ended on 8/10/11.  The S&P 500 consists of 500 stocks chosen for market size, liquidity and industry group representation.  It is a market value weighted index with each stock’s weight in the index proportionate to its market value (source: BTN Research).    

“I am looking for a knitting pattern for a poncho that has cuffs. I saw one online, but now I can’t find it again.”  The Newton Falls Public Library staff had trouble imaging what the garment looked like, so we asked for clarification. “It is a poncho you pull over your head, but along the edge there are cuffs to put your hands through; not slits in the poncho, but actual cuffs. This keeps it close to your arms without actually having sleeves.”  

Is anyone else sick and tired of winter yet? Spring officially sprang this week but unfortunately I think the Cleveland area missed that memo, so here we are surviving with cold temperatures and potentially more snow. The cold temperatures and extra moisture has lead to a very popular topic amongst the wineries – “how are your vineyards doing?”

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.

Last article, we learned that those squishy, pink earthworms that we adore in our gardens are invasive and capable of dramatic changes in our natural habitats. We also learned what can be done to help the situation. This started a series of upcoming articles designed to inform our readers about opportunities to be good stewards of the environment.

1. LOOKING BACK – Over the 300 months ending 2/28/13 (i.e., the last 25 years), the S&P 500 has been up 64% of the months and down the other 36% of the months.  The period includes the 2000-02 bear market (down 49%) and the 2007-09 bear market (down 57%).  The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index of 500 widely held stocks that is generally considered representative of the US stock market (source: BTN Research).

 

2. NOT LINEAR – $1 invested in the S&P 500 stock index on 5/31/95 in a tax-deferred account would have nearly quadrupled in value to $3.95 on a total return basis by 2/28/13 or after 17 years, 9 months.  However the original $1 doubled in value to $1.94 by 1/31/98 (i.e., after just 2 years, 8 months) and then it took another 15 years and 1 month for the total to double again to $3.95.  This mathematical calculation ignores the ultimate impact of taxes on the account which are due upon withdrawal, is for illustrative purposes only and is not intended to reflect any specific investment.  Actual results will fluctuate with market conditions and will vary (source: BTN Research).

 

3. RECESSIONS AND BEARS – Of the 11 recessions that have occurred in the last 65 years, 8 have occurred in tandem with stock bear markets (i.e., at least a 20% decline in the S&P 500), including the last 4 recessions (source: National Bureau of Economic Research).

 

4. NO TUMBLE – As of 3/18/13 (today), the S&P 500 has gone 531 days (calendar days, not trading days) without experiencing a 10% correction, the 6th longest streak in the last 50 years (source: BTN Research).

 

5. OUT vs. IN – In spite of the fact that the USA had a $540 billion trade deficit in 2012 (imports in excess of exports), we were able to offset that outflow of dollars by attracting $520 billion of foreign capital into our stocks and bonds.  Thus, for every $10 that left the USA because of excessive buying of foreign imports, $9.63 came into the USA as foreigners bought American financial assets (source: Commerce Department, Treasury Department).

 

6. NOT QUITE FREE TRADE – The United States exported more goods and services in 2012 to the countries of Japan and the Netherlands ($110.7 billion of exports to the 2 countries combined) than we exported to China ($110.6 billion).  The population of China (1.32 billion people) is 9 times the size of the combined 145 million person population of Japan and the Netherlands (source: Department of Commerce).

 

7. GETTING OLDER – Life expectancy at birth of Americans has increased by 10.5 years in the last 60 years (i.e., 1950-2010), reaching 78.7 years today.  Thus since 1950, life expectancy at birth has increased by 2 months every year (source: Center for Disease Control).

 

8. GET YOUR OWN – Only 1 in 7 Americans seniors (14%) age 72 and older believe that they owe their children or grandchildren an inheritance (source: Allianz).

 

9. AND BORROW WE DO - The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was 1.76% on 12/31/12.  The yield on the 10-year Treasury note was 3.82% on 12/31/02.  Thus for the same annual cost of money, our government can borrow +117% more money today than we did 10 years ago (source: BTN Research).

 

10. SMALL AMOUNT – An estimated 3,780 decedents in calendar year 2013 (out of 2.4 million projected deaths this year) will generate $14.2 billion of federal estate tax receipts for the US government, just ½ of 1% of our estimated annual tax revenue (source: Tax Policy Center).

 

11. TAX DOLLARS – Tax receipts collected by the US government through 5 months of fiscal year 2013 (through 2/28/13) are up +$117 billion (+13.1%) vs. the same 5 months in fiscal year 2012 (source: Treasury Department).

 

12. A CENTURY AGO – The 16th Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified on 2/03/1913 (i.e., 100 years ago last month), giving Congress the right to impose individual income taxes on American citizens.  The top marginal tax rate was 7% in 1913 vs. 39.6% in 2013 (source: Internal Revenue Service).

 

13. OVERSPENDING – Our nation’s outstanding debt, $16.433 trillion on 12/31/12, rose to $16.687 trillion as of 2/28/13, an increase of $4.3 billion a day for the first 2 months of 2013 (source: Treasury Department).

 

14. BORROWING – Total consumer credit nationwide (i.e., consumer debts excluding home mortgages and home equity loans) increased by $153 billion over the 12 months ending 1/31/13, equal to $1,333 of debt increase for each of the 114.8 million households in the country (source: Federal Reserve).

 

15. LOTS OF K’s – Sandy Koufax struck out 311 more batters than he walked during the 1965 season for the Los Angeles Dodgers, going 26-8 with a 2.04 ERA.  Justin Verlander of the Tigers led the majors with 239 strikeouts during the 2012 season (source: Major League Baseball).

 

Since the inception of Nearby Nature, we have discussed many subjects relating to natural history, geology, plant and animal identification, places to experience nature, and many others. Like huge puzzle pieces so to speak, we have tried to create an awareness of how everything “fits together” and works in harmony creating sights and experiences we enjoy every day. Beginning with the last article we will focus on becoming good stewards of nature. What we can do as mere mortals to combat invasive species, make others more aware of destructive pest and environmental practices, educate ourselves regarding environmental issues and become citizen scientists? By no means are we advocating getting on a soap box in the middle of town square or becoming an eco-terrorist. But what can we do to help the environment in our little corner of the world? That being said, let’s turn our attention to a subject that few people would imagine as being one of the biggest threats to the forests of Ohio and surrounding Great Lakes Region including all of the New England States: Earthworms.

1. TWO MONTHS – The S&P 500 gained +6.6% (total return) during the first 2 months of 2013, 67% of the average annual total return achieved over the last 50 calendar years.  The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index of 500 widely held stocks that is generally considered representative of the US stock market (source: BTN Research).

2. ANOTHER YEAR – 7 of the last 10 bull markets for the S&P 500 stock index have reached at least 3 years in length and 5 of the 10 lasted at least 5 years.  The current bull market is the 11th bull for the S&P 500 since 1950 and it will reach 4 years in length as of Saturday 3/09/13 (source: BTN Research).  

I know many of you are sick and tired of seeing the snow, the gray clouds and having to deal with the colder temperatures. But as I mentioned in last week’s column there are some sure signs that Spring is around the corner.

First, aside from it being pancake breakfast season it is also Girl Scout Cookie Season! As the Girl Scout Troop Leader for the 3rd graders at James A. Garfield Elementary this is an exciting time for the girls – taking inventory, learning to manage cookie booths and, of course, raising money for a goal! But with this responsibility comes a lot of cookies which is what makes this next event so special!

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.

Amanda speaks thoughtfully and softly. She is very wise for one so young. She has been through more than her share of heartache, with mental illness in her family and recently a cousin completed suicide.

She’s strong in her knowledge about how to help her family and she’s sharing that education as a teacher for the Portage County Family-to-Family Education Class that starts Saturday, March 16, at The Church in Aurora.

What is the sign of a good decision?®

It’s managing health care costs and your retirement outlook.

Health care costs rank as one of retirees’ biggest financial concerns. But the sooner you plan for this cost, the better you’ll feel about your retirement security. Keep in mind, too, that the chances of those costs being offset by retiree health care insurance grow slimmer each year – as fewer and fewer employers extend health care benefits to retirees.

As the moon goes to bed, the sun comes up

And here we meet a sleepy pup,

Who was walking through G-ville one bright sunny day,

Then saw The Villager and decided to stay.

Tucked cozily in his blanket, the warm fabric wrapped extra tightly around his toes, Doodle Dog peered out the window to the town streets where the fluffy snow was falling again. Spring would be here soon, at least that’s what he heard from the neighborhood groundhog, but for now the sidewalks were still covered in white flecks and the townspeople continued to hurry along about their business all bundled up in thick coats and fuzzy scarves. As much fun as it usually was to watch the world bustling about, the floppy-eared puppy was getting just a bit bored with being inside. His recent trip to the park was indeed very exciting, but Doodle Dog wasn’t about to go back out in that chilly air or the even chillier icy cold water. His toes were finally warming up again, thankyouverymuch!

Glancing around the office for something to entertain him, Doodle Dog saw his favorite bookcase with all the pretty drawings on the covers. The office was empty of humans, nice and quiet which would be perfect for reading, but it also meant there was no one to read Doodle Dog a story. He could go to the library and find a little boy or girl to read to him, but that would mean going outside. Brrrrr! Doodle Dog shivered just thinking about it. No… he would have to figure out something else.

As he looked at the painted images decorating each cover, Doodle Dog thought about the beautiful princess walking through the forest on the green book sitting on the top shelf and about the knight in his shining armor riding his horse down a dirt path on the cover of the blue book nestled right in the middle of the bookcase. Would their paths ever meet? What problems would try to stand in their way? The floppy-eared puppy didn’t have to open the book to figure out what happened – he decided he could make up his own tale!

Curling up even deeper in his blanket, Doodle Dog closed his eyes and imagined what it would be like to walk down the forest path next to the princess, her long dress the color of daffodils in sunshine floating in the gentle wind that blew through the trees. He could almost feel the soft grass and dirt under his paws as he padded along and hear the woodland creatures scurrying about from their lush hollows. Together the floppy-eared puppy and the princess greeted the friendly animals who lived among the vines and brush, and they had made their way nearly to the edge of the forest where the sunlight broke through the leafy canopy overhead, when a very loud rumble startled Doodle Dog and made him jump behind the princess’s skirt. Being brave was sometimes overrated. The princess didn’t look too worried, but she stopped walking and peered around the last tree bordering the forest. Doodle Dog decided it was safe enough to peer around the princess as she peered around the tree, and as he tried to figure out what was making such a noise, he heard it again! This time there was no mistaking it – the thundering sound was coming from a nearby cave just to the left of the forest’s path. Not only that, but coming from the entrance of the cave with the thunder were billowing clouds. No, not clouds… smoke!

After a few moments, the princess slowly unwrapped herself from the tree and, once the floppy-eared puppy unwrapped himself from her ankles, she began to cautiously approach the cave. Doodle Dog swallowed his fear and followed her brave example to find out what was causing the noise and the smoke. Inside the cave, among the puffs of cloudy smoke, the floppy-eared puppy saw a shining pile of brilliantly-colored jewels and other treasures. Pretty! And right behind the giant mound of shimmering objects was… NOT one of the friendly woodland creatures: a very large, very scaly, very grumpy dragon! The mean old dragon thrashed its tail, knocking a layer of jewels in an avalanche to the floor.

But why do dragons have to be so mean? Doodle Dog wondered. The floppy-eared puppy remembered this is HIS story and he didn’t want the dragon to be mean. So he thought of what might happen to make the dragon be not so mean and before he knew it, the princess marched right up to the large, scaly, grumpy dragon and wrapped her arms around it and gave it a big, squishy, friendly hug, sort of like she’d hugged the tree in the forest. As Doodle Dog watched, the cave stopped echoing thunder and spewing smoke that looked like clouds, and the large, scaly, not-so-grumpy dragon reached down to one of the jewels that had tumbled to the floor and nudged it toward the princess. The sunlight from outside the cave glinted off the heavy jewel and the dragon ducked its head into the sunlight itself, spread its wings and flew out of the cave and up over the trees. The princess and the floppy-eared puppy stepped outside to wave at the dragon and at that moment the sunlight glinted off a knight in his shining armor who was riding his horse down the dirt path. The knight took off his helmet and the princess could see he was a prince in disguise!

Before Doodle Dog’s imagination could get away from him again, the floppy-eared puppy decided he better give the prince and princess a happy ending and one for the curious guard puppy too! Safe at home in the office, he nuzzled his nose in his blankets and finished his story before anything else had a chance to slither out of the cave…

 

It’s the season of flowers, fancy dinners and, of course, lots of hearts. Although if your Valentine’s Day is anything like ours the night is filled with homework, a quick dinner and running out the door to the next sports practice or dance lesson. While Valentine’s Day has never been a major event – even in college my husband would take me to the nearest card section, pick out a card, let me read it, say, “Happy Valentine’s Day” then place the card back on the shelf – it still deserves a little something special!

Remember Fred Flintstone, he was always blaming poor Wilma for all the stupid situations he and Barney had gotten themselves into. Well, unfortunately Fred can’t blame the Ice Age on Wilma this time.  As we discussed in Part One of the geology of Ohio, the concept of geologic time was explained as well as the “Periods” that led to the formation of what we call Ohio today. However, there is one more critical event, which like a sculptor chiseling away at a marble block to create a beautiful statue, reshaped the Ohio landscape for eternity…or for now, anyway. 

Since the school deaths in Connecticut, our nation has seen more school and community violence, as well as the ramping up of the debate over guns and, just as importantly, over mental health services. Portage has an array of mental health treatment services for children, teens and families supported through funding by the Mental Health & Recovery Board. The board also funds the county’s 24-hour crisis services that help residents who may be threatening to hurt themselves or others and also serve as round the clock  information and referral sources.

Even though January brings in our “winter hours” (Friday and Saturdays from 3pm – 9pm) we are quite busy working behind the scenes at the winery. Besides the usual work in the cellar (checking the wine from harvest, monitoring the juice to make sure it stays at a stable temperature, cleaning up the bottling line to get ready for our next bottling session and completing our year end inventory) we are also planning for some exciting events at the winery. 

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.

Recently, fixed mortgages were near their lowest rates in almost 30 years. And if you are one of the many people who took out mortgages in the few years prior to that, you may be wondering if you should look into refinancing.

If your mortgage was taken out within the past five years, it may be worthwhile to refinance if you can get financing that is at least one to two points lower than your current interest rate. You should plan on staying in the house long enough to pay off the loan transaction charges (points, title insurance, attorney’s fees, etc.).

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.

In many of our articles we hope to give our readers a new set of eyes so as they can discover “nature” as they have never seen it before.  Most of our readers have been to Nelson Ledges State Park and are struck be amazing rock formations, but who would have thought that if you stand in the parking lot you could straddle the divide between the Lake Erie and Ohio River watershed? But you can. As you straddle the divide facing east, water on your left side would travel toward Lake Erie down to Lake Ontario; go over Niagara Falls and down the St. Lawrence River to the North Atlantic. Water on your right side would make its way to Eagle Creek, the Mahoning and Ohio Rivers, flow into the Mississippi and end up in the Gulf of Mexico.  This is an example of having “new” eyes, seeing things from a different perspective.

On September 9, 2012, a crotchety, absolutely ancient looking 1928 Studebaker Dictator made the first trip under its own power in at least 49 years to the Classic Car Show at Sunny Lake in Aurora.  Likely it’s been sleeping a good bit longer than that, because  sometime prior to 1963, it had been towed to a Studebaker Dealer in that disabled condition and traded for…  We will never know what!.  What meager information that could be garnered at the time indicated that the dealer had plans to restore it and place it in his showroom as an advertising ploy.   ….BUT….  In 1963 the Studebaker Corporation was in its death throes and its dealers were on the verge of bankruptcy day by day. It is likely that the old Studebaker was purchased by the dealer a few years earlier, say in 1959 or1960, when the then- newly-introduced compact Studebaker Lark buoyed spirits and provided a welcome bit of optimism to the Studebaker conglomerate by dramatically spiking their sales curve. By  1963 though, sales had taken a nosedive thanks to competition from Corvairs, Falcons and Valiants (new compacts offered by the Big Three car makers).  There was now no money for such luxuries as old car restorations.  So in those last days before the Studebaker empire came crashing down this old Dictator got towed to the back of the lot along with the other junkers to be sold for scrap.  Enter a then 21-year-old John Biggs who, at that time, could probably be accurately described as something of a dreamer, someone who saw value in things that mainstream society had used up and moved on from. This is a disease that some of us inveterate old car buffs seem to be afflicted with from early on in life. 

Snowflakes landed one by one outside the office window, each one adding to the smooth blanket of white covering the town like a new cozy comforter keeping the grass warm. But the weather was anything but warm as the snow continued to drift down, some icy flecks floating lazily on a gentle wind before landing on a small pile, while other more menacing tufts sped straight to the ground with a very purposeful thud. Well, with as much “thud” as a soft little snowflake could do, even if it was a tough, menacing one.

Happy 2013! Tis the season for making new promises and new goals for the new year. Along with my regular New Year’s resolutions (losing weight, winning the lottery, etc) I am also adding a new resolution this year – broaden my horizons on wine. I like this resolution because it is a great excuse to try some wines that I normally would not go buy.

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I understand that breakfast is the most important part of the day. I agree with the theory that a healthy and productive day starts by fueling your body, which kick-starts your metabolism, giving your body the energy it needs to face the day. This idea really has merit, so I feel validated sharing it with my kids each morning. “Kids have growing bodies that need fuel,” I tell them. “You’re brain is hungry, even if your tummy isn’t.” Eventually, if the scientific approach fails me, I resort to bribery.

Since mushrooms have been in the news of late, we thought we would try to enlighten our readers about one of the most unusual and extremely important organisms in nature. Ominous sounding names like Destroying Angel, Deadly Galerina, and Poision Pie, are obviously poisonous; but Sulfer Tuft,  Jack O’Lantern, and Fly Agaric are equally as dangerous. However Morels, Meadow Mushrooms, and White Matsutake are a culinary delight. 

Last week I gave you 5 of my favorite wine gifts for this year. And while I could probably have this list go on until next Christmas, I will just keep it to the final five! Items four and five can be found at Bed, Bath and Beyond or I’ve even seen them at Kohls! While items one, two and three are great local finds at your local wineries or wine shops

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).

“I’m trying to remember the name of a drug store chain from the 1950s, 1960s.  There was one near where I lived in Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C., and I remember there was also one in Youngstown.  The one in Washington was replaced by Gray Drugs. Can you find the name of the store for me?”  Questions such as this one are always intriguing, requiring extra thought as to how to approach finding something which has since been replaced by something else.

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Isn’t it funny how a smell can instantly take you back to a time and a place where you first experienced it? For me, when I smell crayons, I’m six years old, and back-to-school supply shopping. My mom would take me and my platoon of siblings to Kmart, long before the invention of the world’s largest retailer. There we’d be, each clutching a supply list, getting everything we’d need to tackle the exciting new school year.

I can still vividly remember the first time I saw a coyote; it was at the gravel pit where I worked during the summer behind the Red Fox housing development in Shalersville. The game protector informed the plant manager that a coyote had been killing young calves on a neighbors beef farm. He gave us permission to kill the animal if we saw it roaming through the area. Later in the day, the animal was laying across the tailgate of a truck.  It was the size of a very large German Sheppard. That was 35 years ago!  Recently Aurora, Hudson and Frohring Meadows in the Geauga Metro Parks have had “coyote experiences”.  On many nights I can hear the eerie howling as they communicate with each other in the woods where I live.  This highly adaptable canine has expanded its range to most of North America and into Mexico and Panama. This is due in large part because the other predators such as mountain lions, bears, lynx, wolverines and bobcats who normally keep coyote populations in check have been pushed out by urban sprawl, upsetting the delicate balance of nature.  Coyotes are found in all 88 counties of Ohio. Coyote populations often increase as the turkey population’s increase in an area. Seldom do they attack a healthy deer, mainly feeding on the weak or sickly. 

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”.