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Lawsuits have become increasingly common in our society. From 1951 through 2009, the cost of torts (civil suits) rose at more than double the annual rate of general inflation and even surpassed the annual increase in medical expenses (see chart).

My usually good natured husband was looking troubled when I returned from my shopping trip several Sundays ago. How could he have guessed about the new pair of shoes I just had to have? The shoes were far from the problem I learned as he shared this story.

Soon after I had left for an afternoon of retail consumption, a woman came to the front door. My husband didn’t recognize her but thought it might be an acquaintance ofmine. It turned out to be a relative. She lives with her family far from our home. Her visit was a surprise but a welcome one. 

Has this fall been more vibrant than others? The leaves have been changing colors since the last week of September and for the past three weeks have created the backdrop for truly breathtaking views of our surrounding landscape. We are blessed to live in Northeast Ohio this time of year and have our climate and biome to thank for the fall spectacle. Leaves are putting on their annual fall show throughout the northeastern US and southeastern Canada. Ohio is just part of the Temperate Deciduous Forest biome that blankets this section of North America with green each summer and reds, oranges and yellows each fall. Temperate means that this biome experiences 4 distinct seasons. Deciduous describes trees that lose their leaves in the fall. The Temperature Deciduous Forest biome extends essentially from the Mississippi River eastward and from parts of southern states (Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi) into Quebec and Ontario, Canada.

I’ve mentioned a couple of times how I love the local food trucks… from Hodge Podge (who helped put the Cleveland Food Trucks on the map in Food Network’s “The Great Food Truck Race) to Sweet! The Mobile Cupcakery (yes, they only sell some of the greatest cupcakes) to Cracked Mobile that specializes in breakfast.

As you hear the echoes of whirling winds throwing leaves and while changes in weather chills your bones, October is a month rich in tradition of ghostly tales and old folklore. Whether it’s idle curiosity, a sense to hear scary stories, or suspenseful intrigue, Portage County District Library has an enormous collection to satisfy any appetite. Here is just a small portion of what’s awaiting for you on the library bookshelves:

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

Now that we have talked about red wine and white wine, let’s get into the topic of blushes or rosé wines. When someone mentions a blush wine (usually this wine is a lighter red to pink color) you may start to think about the sweeter taste of White Zinfandel. While this is the most popular blush wine, there are varying degrees of blush wine. 

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

The beautiful gazebo was quiet now as all the little fairies, imps, nymphs and sprites who had gathered there to hear the princess’s tales went on their way and lived happily ever after. The giant once-white canvas with all the paint tracks – and tail smacks! – made by the floppy-eared puppy and all the other dogs was now hung up for display, the blips and blops of colorful blobs long since dried. And all the different shades of the evening sky, swiped above the earth with nature’s widest paint brush, had made way for a new work of art brought about by the morning’s refreshing light. For having been so busy, so bustling, so filled with the animals and their humans surrounded by so much creative power not so long ago, the little park was now relatively quiet and calm. But as Doodle Dog wandered past the empty gazebo, through what had been the painting area, and around the perching rock that had the best view of the sky, he knew there was still very much a joyful energy left behind. 

We all know there are no such things as vampires. However, bloodsuckers exist and you should be alert to their presence. They can be very sneaky. Mosquitoes, three-corner flies, horse flies and many other insects want to make a meal out of you. One of the creepiest and most repulsive bloodsuckers isn’t even an insect! Instead, this organism has eight legs and can’t even fly. Ticks! They have been very abundant this summer and it helps to know something about these parasites.

Parents generally don’t have to be convinced of the value of a college education for their children. Studies show that college graduates not only earn more but are healthier, more satisfied with their jobs, and more likely to remain employed during tough economic times.1

Avast, me hearties…and a “Yankee Doodle” doo to you!

It’s Navy Week.  It’s Navy Week and it’s being observed in Boston by the first sailing of the oldest commissioned ship in the U.S. Navy, the U.S.S. Constitution–“Old Ironsides”– since 1997 (It’s been tugged to a few places but this is the first time under its own sail power since its restoration.).  This commemorates the 200th anniversary of its victory over the British warship, HMS Guerriere in the War of 1812 (The nickname came about when, supposedly, cannonballs from the British ship bounced off the oaken sides of the American vessel).

Curiouser and curiouser…as Alice said during her adventures in Wonderland….

NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)’s Mars Science Laboratory has just succeeded in landing the spacecraft Curiousity on Mars, the culmination of more than three decades of planning and building, theorizing and research, not to mention scrounging for money.

Doodle Dog scampered through the cool grass and wove in among unusual trees and out among usual trees. He let the green blades tickle the undersides of his round paws as he scampered and wandered and trotted and plodded along his way, not really paying much attention to all that scampering, wandering, trotting and plodding as he continued on because he still had the barking hum or humming bark of the canine choir barking and humming away in his head. In fact, Doodle Dog found himself scampering, wandering, trotting and plodding right along in step with the tune depending on if it was humming or barking or echoing in his mind like the different voices of the animals and their humans had echoed off the usual and unusual trees surrounding the curiously enchanted garden!

As I have mentioned in previous columns, this summer has been the best – hot temperatures, plenty of sun, lots of parties, and of course, lots of wine! As harvest season is right around the corner, I thought I would take the next couple of weeks to give you a quick discussion on white wine grapes versus red wine grapes. So grab a glass of your favorite white wine and continue to read…

Any anniversary is a milestone. Whether it is an anniversary for a happy occasion or a sad occasion, every year that passes brings so many more memories. So looking back to 8 years ago when the winery opened, I cannot believe the number of memories and milestones we have celebrated. Actually, I can’t believe that we are celebrating our 8th anniversary of the winery’s grand opening!

Source: firefly.org

Close your eyes and think back to a warm summer night, the smell of a camp fire, roasting marshmallows or eating s’mores; when all of a sudden, a young voice yells out, “There one is” and all the kids run to the blinking lights slowly rising into the moonlit sky. We all can remember the endless summer nights as kids, chasing lighting bugs or fireflies after a long day of picnics, swimming, and family gatherings. Even as parents and grandparents, watching kids run to catch their first lighting bug is magical. My granddaughter named the first one she caught Gloria, kept it in a container with grass only to have it mysteriously escape sometime during the night. So what are these blinking summer beacons of joy?

Estate taxes. It’s not enough to simply know they exist, and to know strategies to minimize them. When it comes down to it, you need to plan how you and your family will eventuaally pay them.

The Estate Tax Dilemma

Estate taxes are generally due nine months after the date of death. And they are due in cash. In addition to estate taxes, there may be final expenses, probate costs, administrative fees, and a variety of other costs. How can you be sure the money will be there when it’s needed?

Estate Tax Options

There are four main sources of funds to pay estate taxes. First, your current savings and investments. You or your survivors can use savings and investments to cover the costs of estate taxes, probate fees, and other expenses. This is often a sound alternative. However, sometimes savings and investments may not be sufficient. And if those savings were earmarked for other financial goals, you may need to rethink how you will achieve those goals.

Another option would be to borrow the money. Unfortunately, with this option you not only have to pay the estate taxes, but you or your survivors will be forced to pay interest on the amount borrowed to pay estate taxes. Remember to consider how your family’s credit standing will be affected by a death in the family.

The third option involves liquidation. If estate taxes are larger than the cash available to pay them, you may have to sell valuable assets such as the family home, the family business, or other assets. Hopefully, they will sell for what they’re worth. In many cases, however, they don’t.

The fourth option — one that is often a prudent way to pay estate taxes — is life insurance.

What Can Life Insurance Provide?

Life insurance can provide a timely death benefit, in cash, that can be used to pay estate taxes and other costs. And it will be paid directly to the beneficiary of the policy, without being subject to the time and expense of probate.

Granted, life insurance does require premium payments. However, if appropriate to your situation, life insurance premiums can be looked at as a systematic way of funding future estate taxes. You get guaranteed liquidity and a death benefit that is generally free from federal income taxes. Indeed, the financial protection provided by life insurance can be invaluable to those who have the burden of paying estate taxes — your loved ones.

The cost and availability of life insurance depend on factors such as age, health, and the type and amount of insurance. Before implementing a strategy involving insurance, it would be prudent to make sure you are insurable. As with most financial decisions, there are expenses associated with the purchase of life insurance. Policies commonly have mortality and expense charges. In addition, if a policy is surrendered prematurely, there may be surrender charges and income tax implications. Any guarantees are contingent on the claims-paying ability of the issuing company. Before you take any specific action, be sure to seek professional advice.

Coping with estate taxes may be a difficult proposition for you or your survivors. When it comes to paying them, consider life insurance. It may be a strategy worth considering, and overlooking it could be costly.

 

The information in this article is not intended to be tax or legal advice, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek tax or legal advice from an independent professional advisor. The content is derived from sources believed to be accurate. Neither the information presented nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. This material was written and prepared by Emerald. © 2012 Emerald Connect, Inc. 

 

Save the date – Vintage Ohio is August 3rd and 4th this year. What is Vintage Ohio you ask? It is Ohio’s largest wine festival held at Lake FarmPark in Kirtland, Ohio. Enjoy the day sampling wines from over 25 Ohio wineries, see over 30 over vendors in the fine art and craft show all to the background beat of reggae, jazz, blues and oldies musicians. 

Doodle Dog would have loved to continue snoozing the day away, turning the quite pleasant, enchanted eve of quiet midsummer night’s dreams into a quite pleasant, enchanted afternoon of quiet midsummer day’s dreams, but as the wide eyes of the man in the moon closed sleepily and the bright-eyed gleam of the morning sun warmed the grassy knoll where a little floppy-eared puppy slept, drifting in and out on the lullabies of pixies and sprites, of fairies and nymphs, guarded by the soft, soothing glow of fireflies and nature’s night lights, he convinced his drowsy eyes to open and his relaxing paws to stretch out over the emerald carpet, squishy with the dawn dew.

During the summer months, our Nearby Nature articles have provided suggestions of favorite places to visit within 150 miles of Garrettsville (all right, some have been outside of the distance limit, but certainly worth the extra miles). The articles have included unique natural areas throughout Ohio and Pennsylvania that can be visited in a day or a couple of days. 

The St. Lawrence River is about an 8-hour drive from Mantua, Ohio.  It is the boundary between the U.S. and Canada from New York through Maine. The first 40 miles of the St. Lawrence from Lake Ontario eastward are also known as the Thousand Islands. This area has a mystique and aura about it, which is very much unlike any other place that I’ve fished before. It is reminiscent of the typically-pictured Canadian waterscapes with much rocky outcropping, craggy, rocky islands, rocks and trees, in-water rock piles, and whalebacks (reefs that protrude above water).  Unlike typical Canadian waterscapes though, you are not out in the wilderness a hundred miles from nowhere.  There are myriads of summerhouses scattered among the islands and shorelines.  More than some of them are million dollar summer mansions.  Many of these summer cottages are easily $250-500,000 abodes. Many are quaint, turn of the last century houses in excellent repair. Many are quite modern. This is not the typical Canadian Hinterlands.

Awwwrighty-tighty, here’s the plan.

Dick, Larry, Casey….  Listen up!

What you need to do is put the entire village of Garrettsville under roof, hire all or nearly all of the inhabitants and you can play in the big leagues with the Hartville Hardware which just had its grand opening last weekend.

The sky was clear as Doodle Dog padded along the sidewalk, no clouds or hot air balloons to be found today! He had somewhere on his mind – some place very special he hoped – and he was determined to sniff it out. When Doodle Dog had finally peered over the basket edge and spotted all the places he’d been and yet even more spaces to visit, one particularly curious meadow caught his eye from way up in the sky. So the floppy-eared puppy, now safely on the ground, set out to find this new place, hoping that it was just as curious and special on the land as it was from the air.
Doodle Dog knew where his favorite meadow was, and had even recognized it from way up above, but he remembered that the new meadow seemed quite far away from his usual places so he set off in the completely opposite direction from where he usually went. Through bushes and thickets, around tree trunks and flower beds, the floppy-eared puppy went this way and that, so sure that he was headed in the right direction. He didn’t know exactly how he knew that he knew it, but he certainly knew that he knew it! Sure enough, as Doodle Dog turned the corner around a particularly unusual-looking tree, he was also certain that he could hear the faintest gleeful sounds floating on the air toward him. He couldn’t see just who – or just what! – was making the excitement that echoed off the bushes and thickets and tree trunks and flowers surrounding the particularly unusual-looking tree, but as Doodle Dog crept ever closer he knew he would soon find out.
There, just past the bushes and thickets, and just past the tree trunks and flowers, and even just slightly past the unusual-looking tree, was the curious meadow the floppy-eared puppy had seen from way up high. Except it was down below and now so was he! Doodle Dog stood still for a moment, gazing in awe at the field in front of him. Rolling hills of grass spread with layers and layers of every kind of colorful flora and fauna imaginable served as a lush bed for pillows of the same bushes, thickets and flowers through which Doodle Dog had been scampering. It was indeed just as curious a meadow as Doodle Dog thought, but he still hadn’t figured out what was causing those sounds, like the laughter of fairies or the tinkling of bells.
The curious floppy-eared puppy in the curious meadow didn’t have to wait much longer to make that discovery, however, as the sound grew louder and louder and then it ran across the field carried by the quick little legs of three little children scampering through the thickets just as Doodle Dog had done! His favorite kind of humans! Doodle Dog could see a little boy carrying a long, skinny stick and wearing a pointy hat made of tin foil with a bright red plume stuck in the top. It looked like a feather from a crimson-colored cardinal that the boy must have found. A little girl, who very much reminded Doodle Dog of his sweet hot air balloon companion, danced along in a pretty sundress with a fluttery skirt. A crown of daisies draped over the top of her chestnut curls, gently bouncing with every lighthearted step. A garland made of nearby ivy decorating her dress matched the green in her eyes as they sparkled with excitement. The delighted squeals continued to fill the air as the darling damsel dashed daintily through the dandelions, as ladylike as possible, of course! Doodle Dog watched as a second little boy dropped down to his hands and knees in the grass. At first Doodle Dog thought he was pretending to be a puppy but then he started making noises like a horse and seemed to be ready to charge at the little princess!
The makeshift knight was too far away from the make-believe princess to stop the pretend horse from running into her, and Doodle Dog quickly thought of all the stories he’d heard about knights and their horses. Doodle Dog knew the knights in the tales were brave, loyal, and strong. He was definitely loyal and he could be a tough little floppy-eared puppy when he needed to be, but Doodle Dog wasn’t sure about the brave part…but then, just as he’d took a chance and opened his eyes to see the world from the balloon so high, Doodle Dog took a leap and jumped in front of the princess and gave a friendly growl to the “horse.” The princess, with her hair draped in daisies and her dress draped in ivy, draped her arms around Doodle Dog’s neck and gave him a big, wet kiss on his floppy ears. Ew!
After Doodle Dog shook his ears and the pretend horse laughed, the little princess took the knight’s skinny-stick sword and first touched Doodle Dog’s front shoulder and then the other. “Sir Doodle Dog” spent the afternoon prancing and dancing with the princess and her friends until the sun set its brilliant colors on their little kingdom.
As he curled in for a well-deserved nap on a rolling hill, he bet he might even be able to take on a dragon, should of course there be a damsel in need of rescuing! And as for the curious meadow, it was indeed just as special a place as Doodle Dog hoped.

A couple of weeks ago we talked about how popular wineries are becoming in the state of Ohio and what a great asset they are to the older wineries. Well, did you know that wine bars are just as important and are growing just as fast in the state of Ohio? There are more than  6 wine bars within a 30 minute drive of Garrettsville! Over the next couple of weeks I’ll talk about some of the wine bars but before then, let’s talk about how a wine bar is different from a winery.

June 5, 2012.  LOOK!  Up in the sky!

Nah. It was not Superman.  He’s out making movies with the other Superheroes.

It was the transit of Venus…and don’t think that if you missed it last week, you’ll just see it the next time. Because of the way that Venus and the Earth orbit around the sun–not in the same plane but at an angle to each other–these events only take place in pairs that are eight years apart and separated by a century.   Next time will be in the year  2117.  The next one to be visible in the Midwest will be in December of 2125.  Don’t hold your breath.

What an interesting Spring we have had – hot temperatures, frost, hot temperatures, cool temperatures, some rain, more hot temperatures – this weather certainly has been impressive this year. But the good news is the official start to summer is right around the corner – and that means one thing to me! The Annual Summer Solstice, Wine, Art and Music Festival is almost here!

Since the inception of the Nearby Nature column, we have strived to enlighten our readers with what is going on in the natural world around us.– trying to point out why certain events happen, what to watch for during the various seasons, how to identify what you see with useful references or field guides, and interesting bits of trivia or facts that might surprise most people.  Hopefully we have done our job as educators and you can now venture out on your own. Similar to a birds fledgling flight…we are going to push you out of the nest and this summer we are encouraging you go out and enjoy Nearby Nature. With this thought in mind, the next several articles will be focused on what we are calling “one tank trips.” Our center is the Weekly Villager office and we drew a circle with a 150 mile radius figuring most cars get at least 300 miles to one tank of gas. Many of these destinations we have been to and we recommend them highly. Each has its own unique geologic features, plants, animals, or unbelievable scenic views. Remember to take plenty of water, a light snack, map of the area, and compass. Don’t rely on your Smartphone for GPS heading; some areas do not have service. Most areas feature hiking, biking, fishing, canoeing or power boating. Most of the descriptions are taken from the individual web sites and we have added caveats from personal experiences.  We hope you go out and enjoy Nearby Nature! 

Fruity, dry, full bodied, fruit forward… I could go on and on with terms to describe wine. There are so many wine terms but what do they mean? And do they really match the wine? Well that depends on the taster. Many time we will share a bottle of wine with friends and one of us thinks it’s dry, one suggests that it’s fruity, or someone says it’s chewy. Who’s right? We all are!

That’s the great thing about wine – as everyone’s taste buds – everyone tastes something different. So when you are at your next wine tasting here’s a quick guide to some of the most popular terms to describe wine:

Dry – opposite of sweet.  A taste sensation often attributed to tannins and causing puckering sensations in the mouth.

Earthy – an odor or flavor reminiscent of damp soil.

Foxy – a term that notes the musty odor and flavor of wines made from Vitis labrusca grapes  .

Fruity  – a tasting term signifying wines that exhibit strong smells and flavors of fresh fruit.  Can also describe aromas of cooked fruit, as in “jammy”.

Full-bodied – a wine high in alcohol and flavors, often described as “big”.

Hot – wine high in alcohol is often described as producing a “hot” burning sensation in the mouth.

Spicy – a tasting term used to note odors and flavors reminiscent of various aromatic spices that are found in certain wines.

Sweet – wines with perceptible sugar contens on the nose and in the mouth.  Sweet, as a tasting sensation, is perceived on the tip of the tongue.

Vegetal – tasting term describing characteristics of fresh or cooked vegetables detected on the nose and in the flavors of the wine.  Bell peppers, grass, and asparagus are common “vegetal” descriptors.

So next time you are out at a wine tasting think of ways you would describe the wine and then how would your friends describe it – you just might come up with some new terms.

Amanda is the Co-Owner of Candlelight Winery in Garrettsville. For more information on other wine topics, please visit www.candlelightwinery.com

For many people, tax-advantaged investing is an excellent way to reduce their taxes. And while many of the traditional tax-advantaged strategies have been eliminated, there are still alternatives left that can help you reduce your taxes. Some are described below.

Real Estate Partnerships

Two of the most common types of real estate partnerships are low-income housing and historic rehabilitation. The federal government grants tax credits to those who construct or rehabilitate low-income housing or who invest in the rehabilitation or preservation of historic structures.

Participating in a real estate partnership has many advantages. These partnerships may provide opportunities for tax-advantaged income and long-term capital appreciation.

The tax credits generated by these partnerships can be used to offset your income tax liability on a dollar-for-dollar basis. This can make them much more valuable than tax deductions, which help reduce your taxable income, not the tax you pay. These credits are subject to certain limitations, and the rehabilitation tax credit begins to phase out for taxpayers with adjusted gross income (AGI) greater than $200,000 ($100,000 if married filing separately) and is completely phased out when AGI reaches $250,000 ($125,000 if married filing separately).

Oil and Gas Partnerships

Energy partnerships can provide shelter through tax deductions taken at the partnership level. These include deductions for intangible drilling costs, depreciation, and depletion.

The deductions may be limited; check with a tax advisor to see whether you could benefit from oil and gas partnerships.

Suitability

There are risks associated with investing in partnerships. Key among these is that they are long-term investments with an indefinite holding period with no, or very limited, liquidity. There is typically no current market for the units/shares, and a future market may or may not be available. If a market becomes available, it may result in a deep discount from the original price. At redemption, the investor may receive back less than the original investment. The investment sponsor is responsible for carrying out the business plan, and thus the success or failure of the venture is dependent on the investment sponsor. There are no assurances that the stated investment objectives will be reached. This type of investment is considered speculative. You want to ensure that the investment is not disproportionate in relation to your overall portfolio and that it is consistent with your investment objectives and overall financial situation. In order to invest, you will need to meet specific income and net worth suitability standards, which vary by state.

These standards, along with the risks and other information concerning the partnership, are set forth in the prospectus which can be obtained from your financial professional. Please consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses carefully before investing. Be sure to read the prospectus carefully before deciding whether to invest.

The alternative minimum tax is another concern. Make sure to consult a tax advisor to evaluate your exposure to the AMT.

As long as they are suitable for your situation, these tax-advantaged investing strategies can be one way to help reduce your income tax liability. A financial professional can help you determine whether such investments would be an appropriate strategy for you.

Christopher A. Perme is a registered representative of and offers securities, investment advisory and financial planning services through MML Investors Services, Inc. Member SIPC. Supervisory Office: 1660 W. 2nd Street # 850, Cleveland, OH 44113. 216-621-5680.


So, vacation time is here.  What to do?  Where to go?  How about museums–educational, right?–of culinary phenomena?

You could start with the National Mustard Museum( formerly the Mt. Horeb Mustard Museum) in Middleton, Wisconsin, found on the National Registry of Hysterical Places, perched atop the Condimental Divide.  It features over five thousand various mustard-filled items from some sixty countries and in flavors as diverse as chocolate( chocolate mustard?), bleu cheese, cranberry, tequila and wasabi, to name a few.  Regular performances at the Mustardpiece Theatre will give you more information than you probably ever wanted about the uses, history and varieties of mustard.  Try to be there on National Mustard Day, August 4.

And speaking of graduation….  Well, isn’t everyone?

High schools…colleges…pre-schools& kindergartens…wait…pre-schools & kindergartens?  Yup.  Saw it in the R-C picture congrats.   All very well and good, I suppose, and grandparents like to get in encouragement wherever they can but what’s the kid have to look forward to if they’ve already done graduation at age four?  Little tykes are going to have to work especially hard to maintain a focus on accomplishment “above and beyond” if they never get a bigger picture of challenges to be faced and overcome.

Finally we have gotten to fish!  Some five weeks after the initial warm-up during that first week of March that prematurely set everything in motion, I actually got the boat into the water.  Not that it hasn’t been ready to go, I have been waiting patiently for some warm, windless mornings, but instead have been deluged with high winds and cold temperatures for five weeks. Nothing quite aggravates the old arthritis like cold and damp wind! During that initial warm up in March several early bird fishermen caught fish in the lakes and rivers, some of which made it to my shop. And then it turned cold—and turned off the fishing.  Now we finally seem to be entering a period of prolonged warm-up, with temperatures in the 60s and 70s at long last.  

This weather has been amazing and to think that summer isn’t even here yet! The next couple of weeks will be filled with parties, graduations and weddings. Many people are looking for something different to serve at their parties. They love wine but after a busy (and extremely hot) summer, sometimes wine just doesn’t cut it. What does one do in an extreme case like this??? Turn to Sangria of course.

[box ue-content=""]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.[/box]

Strrrrrrrrretch! Yaaaaaaaawn! Doodle Dog lazily rolled over onto his back and reached his furry paws up toward the bright blue sky before wrapping himself back into a fuzzy ball curled up at the base of the grassy knoll. The purple and orange and pink flowers surrounded him as he slept, but Doodle Dog paid no mind to them as he continued to snooze. As the warm sun rose over the knoll, glistening in the dew drops on the thousands of tiny soft blades making the green carpet, Doodle Dog flopped sideways and stretched again. He slowly opened one eye to peek at the morning, but immediately decided the morning would come whether he was awake enough to see it or not and closed his eye again. 

Taxes are becoming an ever-increasing burden to Americans. Through the Tax Reform Act of 1986, Congress reduced or eliminated many of the ways that taxpayers can lower their taxes.

Interest deduction is one of the areas that has been strongly affected by this tax reform legislation. Since tax year 1991, interest on consumer debt has not been deductible for income tax purposes.

So… I’m out playing caretaker here at the Manse and I’m deciding that what we’re running at this location is the animal equivalent of the food court at the mall when a whole cohort of teenagers–boys mostly–shows up to attempt to fill their hollow legs.

“May the trees continue to thrive and flourish on this earth, filling our hearts with joy and inspiration.” — Stephanie Kaza

“Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come.”– Chinese proverb

“He that plants trees loves others beside himself.” — Thomas Fuller

To many, sitting in a forest surrounded by the glory and majesty of the forest is almost a spiritual event, especially in the redwoods; the wind rustling through the tree tops, the sunshine filtering through the canopy, the birds chirping. Besides water, trees are one of the most important components of the earth’s ecosystem. The amount of oxygen trees produce and the consumption of carbon dioxide during photosynthesis is second only to algae. In addition, trees play a critical role in providing habitat for many insects, animals, and birds. Without trees, we would have a hard time building a house, we would have very few paper products, we could not heat our homes, and many other parts of our lives we commonly take for granted would be changed dramatically. 

We thought we would begin this article with a few of  questions….What bird has breeding grounds in the Arctic and flies to its non-breeding grounds in Antarctica and then returns to the Arctic to nest again year after year?  How high is the highest altitude a bird can fly? Do birds use the stars to navigate? Do birds use compasses to help them find true north?  (Answer in the “Did You Know” Section)

If you’ve been to a local winery recently, you may have noticed posters or advertisements for local wine festivals, wine tasting or trail events.  With so many wineries in the area though, how can you, the consumer, learn more about these events and determine where to go? This week we will discuss the difference between some of these events.

People have traditionally seen Social Security benefits as the foundation of their retirement planning programs. The Social Security contributions deducted from your paycheck have, in effect, served as a government-enforced retirement savings plan. However, the Social Security system is under increasing strain. Better health care and longer life spans have resulted in an increasing number of people drawing Social Security benefits. And as the baby boom generation (those born between 1946 and 1964) approaches retirement, even greater demands will be placed on the system.

There are funny things out there, folks. A radio program the other day had on it a gentleman who had just had a new book published; its title was : The Pun Also Rises… a great play on words itself.  I’ll have to get it and treat you to some real groaners.  The late, great Donn Olin would have loved it.

Now that the baseball has officially started–with a few fits and starts as well as a false spring heat wave–you might notice a few things different from last season. Sure, sure, there are new players; that happens every year, more or less. No. Look at what they’re playing WITH…new bats. Not just new, as in “We bought these this year,” but NEW, as in “These meet the BBCOR regs.” What’s up? The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFSHS) has up-dated its equipment standards to be congruent with those of the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association), following a research study by the NCAA concerning player safety. First, it was wooden bats, next, the move was to aluminum and then to composite bats. They got lighter, the kids got more powerful, the hits were longer…and anybody that got hit by a batted ball was, most likely, in a world of hurt, especially pitchers. This was because the composite bats had a higher BESR–ball exit speed ratio–the material of the bat itself caused the hit ball to go like the Olympic motto : Citius, Altius, Fortius–Faster, Higher, Stronger. It was a bonanza for hitters; for pitchers and fielders, not so much. Scores in the College world Series reached unheard-of totals. Injuries rose. What to do? Enter the new bats with a lower BBCOR–bat ball coefficient of restitution. The material of the bat will not produce the “boost” that was giving sluggers the upper hand. The “sweet spot” will be smaller; the balance will be different. Starting in 2012, all non-wood bats must meet the BBCOR standard set in NFSH regulation 1.3.2 in order to “minimize risk, improve play and increase teaching opportunities.” That’s the point made by Garfield’s Coach Norton. Play will be safer; practice will shift to more fundamentals and emphasis on defense, more practice on bunting and placement. There will still be home runs but they’ll be big deals, not ho-hum non-events. There’ll be more emphasis on RBI’s (runs batted in); no more cheap base hits. These things don’t come cheap, of course. The new bats will be priced in the $200-$300 range, for the most part, with bargains here and there and gold-plated ones for the elites. One of the things that got the kibosh put on the earlier composite bats was the fact that they could snap when hit just right (Or wrong, depending on how you look at it). Another was that over time, with use, the bats would slip out of compliance and exit speeds (BESR) would increase by as much as 10-15mph–DANGER! DANGER! Listen for the new sound too. Play Ball!

Global climate change on your mind lately? Several days in the 80’s in March might cause you to consider its validity. Well, it shouldn’t because the unseasonable warmth we have experienced throughout March (actually all winter) is just variation in our weather. The saying goes ‘if you don’t like NE Ohio weather, wait a day and it will change’. This is probably more true in spring than any other time of the year. Notice though, that it is not called ‘global weather change’. The word climate is inserted because it means something different. Let’s review a couple of important terms. Weather describes the current or recent conditions, for example rainy and cool, or sunny, hot and dry. Climate, on the other hand, is the long-term average of weather. Some climate data is a compilation of over 100 years of weather data. Thirty years or more weather data goes in to describe climate. For the most part, our climate in northern Portage County is temperate, which means we have cold winters, hot summers and mild spring and fall seasons. Our climate also indicates we will amass 39 inches of precipitation each year. Most people would guess that April is the rainiest month of the year. It actually ranks 4th with slightly less than 3 ½ inches of rain. May, June and July are actually the rainiest months in Hiram, Ohio. Wondering about our average high temperature in March, particularly after the 70 and 80oF days we have experienced? 45oF! March 2012 will certainly go down as one of the warmest in history, but it will do little to change the climate records from the past 100 years (58oF is the average high temperature for April). So if summer temperatures in March don’t change your mind about climate change, what might? Phenology, of course! What is Phenology? “Many of the events of the annual cycle recur year after year in a regular order. A year-to-year record of this order is a record of the rates at which solar energy flows to and through living things. They are the arteries of the land. By tracing their response to the sun, phenology may eventually shed some light on that ultimate enigma, the land’s inner workings.” –Aldo Leopold, A Phenological Record for Sauk and Dane Counties, Wisconsin, 1935-1945 Naturalist Aldo Leopold began recording season observations at his shack in Wisconsin in 1935. For the next 11 years, his observations recorded the arrival of spring birds, melting ice on the nearby rivers and ponds, the familiar wedge of Canda Geese flying south and much more. Simple, careful observations that provided the basis for his famous work, A Sand County Almanac, still a must read for anyone interested in ecology, natural history, conservation or just a good story. The story that A Sand County Almanac tells is about phenology, the study of plant and animal life cycles changes due to climate and seasonal changes in the environment. Phenology is derived from the Greek word phaino meaning ‘to show or appear’, and is therefore used to describe the science concerned with the dates of first occurrence of natural events in their annual cycle. Animal migrations, plants budding and blooming, insect emergence, frost and ice-over and ice-out dates, and other data are important to understanding changes to climate. These observations are often referred to as “greening-up” (observing spring buds and flowers) and “browning down” (observing fall colors and leaf fall). Farmers are excellent sources of phenological data. They often keep careful records of last and first frost dates, rainfall, soil temperature, planting and harvest dates and much more. Each piece of data is useful for the next year and helps to maximize crop production. Actually, many of us keep track of such information, even if we don’t record our observations carefully. We know that daffodils usually bloom in April and even teach our children that “April showers bring May flowers”. Nature lovers know that the last week in April and first week in May is often the best time to observe trilliums and other spring wildflowers. Birders know that Mother’s Day weekend is often the best for viewing spring migrants. Fortunately, there are people and organizations that have been recording phenology data for many decades. These long-term observations have been essential to understanding climate change. More and more information from phenology studies demonstrates long term trends and shifts in climate. Record warmth in March or even a warm winter does not indicate a trend. Decades of data are necessary. Plants are budding and blooming earlier than 30 or 40 years ago and some are growing in areas that have been too cold. Migrating birds are returning days and sometimes weeks earlier to summer breeding grounds than they have in the past. The USA National Phenology Network (USA-NPN) monitors the influence of climate on the phenology of plants, animals, and landscapes. This organization of scientists, resource managers and volunteers (aka, citizen scientists) learn how to make observations and submit data as a means to understand environmental change. Visit http://www.usanpn.org/about. Project Budburst (http://neoninc.org/budburst/phenology.php) and Journey North (http://journeynorth.org/) are two other resources to learn more about phenology and to get involved in viewing interactive maps and participating in making observations. The Ohio State University has been promoting Phenology Gardens to record dates of blooms and ultimately assist with identifying insect activity. The list of plants for the gardens has been carefully selected because of their close relationships with pollinating insects. Gardens can be planted at schools, businesses and backyards. For more information, visit (http://phenology.osu.edu/default.asp). Did You Know… The famous Washington D.C. Cherry Blossom Festival happens during the first two weeks in April. Over the past two or three decades, the cherry trees have bloomed earlier and the closing parade often happens after the blossoms have lost their luster. The festival may be blossom-less altogether this year as the cherries were already blooming in mid-March. More Nearby Nature Burton Wetlands: Saturday, April 7 (9:00am-Noon) Explore trails and pathways of the Burton Wetlands, the largest and one of the most important wetlands of the Lake Erie watershed. The area provides habitat for bald eagles, river otters, sandhill cranes, and a host of other wildlife. Glacial lakes, bogs, swamp forests, marshland and the old and new Cuyahoga River are all part of this fascinating complex. Sponsored by the Friends of the Hiram College Field Station (hiking fee: $5 for members, $8 for non-members). To register, call 330.569.6003 or email sorrickmw@hiram.edu. Directions provided upon registration. Audubon Bird Walks: April 15, 22, 29; May 6, 13, 20 (7:30-9:00am) Experienced and beginning birders are invited for these walks as we set out early Sunday mornings to learn and record the sights and sounds, indicating the return of our feathered friends from distant lands. Bring your binoculars and meet at the JH Barrow Field Station on Wheeler Rd. (between SR 305 and SR 82) near Garrettsville. It is a great way to learn birding from experts. No registration is necessary. For questions, call 330.569.6003.

So apparently I jinxed myself in last week’s article. I mentioned how great the weather has been and how lucky we were to get a head start on the growing season. Then unfortunately the weather took a turn for the worse and warnings of frost and hard freezes were running across the bottom of my tv screen. We are currently about 4 weeks ahead of the growing season and usually are not “safe” from a frost until mid-May. However if you recall the Spring of 2010 we had a mild March, a nice April and 3 feet of snow in May followed by a week of temperatures in the 20’s around May 23rd. This year is looking eerily similar to 2010 except the temperatures in March this year have been a lot higher than expected. As temperatures dipped to the low 20’s we had a lot of our customer asking what the impact has been. We won’t know the full damage until late April / early May but here is a quick reference chart that we use to estimate how much damage we should expect. Many thanks to Tom Zabadal at Michigan State University, Southwest Michigan Research & Extension Center for putting this together for wineries in frost zones. If the vines are still dormant we can survive some really cold temperatures, however if the bud is just beginning to swell, meaning the bud is brown but no other color temperatures can drop to 13 degrees before we start to see some damage. However if the bud is in full swell where the bud is starting to look pink or green once temperatures reach 26 degrees most wineries will see damage to about 50% of their vines. Right now a lot of wineries are in this swell state however a number of them have reported they have bud burst (leaves are just starting to form on the vine). If temperatures drop to 28 degrees they will see major damage. In late May 2010 we were at the stage of seeing the third leaf in almost full bloom when temperatures dropped to 21 degrees two nights in row. During that time we lost 90% of the vineyard to frost damage and lost an entire season of crop. So hopefully Mother Nature is on our side this year and quickly warms back up for a fantastic year of grape growing! Amanda is the Co-Owner of Candlelight Winery located at 11325 Center Street, Garrettsville. For more information on some of these events or wine lists from the winery, please visit www.candlelightwinery.com or call 330.527.4118.