Monday, July 29, 2013

Trimming the Pond

 Today while we walked the asphalt path at the Farmersville-Jackson Twp. Joint Park, two members of the Jackson Twp. Road Department were following up yesterday's mow with appropriate trimming. One worked around trees; another trimmed around the edge of the pond.

 I've always found when we have standing water in our yard, a mower can't be used to get very close to the wet area. As soon as the edge of the blade contacts the water, it sends an hellacious spray of water into the air and shakes the mower as though it is coming apart. It's neither healthy for mower nor man.

 So today I was interested in how the pond's edge was being trimmed: with a gasoline-powered string trimmer. I suppose holding it out over the water took some upper body strength but the weeds fell quickly in a gentle spray of water.

 Cattails dropped as the trimmer passed through them. Sedge grasses disappeared. Other aquatic plants quickly met their match when struck with monofilament line. It was fun to watch the pond's edge being swept clean (though I imagine a few frogs were less impressed).

 While we walked, we listened to the buzz of the trimmer and saw the summer growth being tamed.

 A pond, though, is a costly and labor-intensive hole in the ground. My brother has a large pond on their ten acres parcel and he's forever worried about the level of the water, whether the fish are getting enough oxygen, whether a "leak" is dropping the water level too quickly, when there will be enough rain to fill it back up. And then there's the algae that blooms in hot weather, turning the surface green, covering the pond with a choking blanket.

 In past years I've seen the Farmersville pond turn turquoise with the application of copper sulfate. It keeps the algae in check fairly efficiently ... but not for long. The water takes on an other-worldly blueish glow, clearly unnatural and even a bit scary.

Today the Farmersville pond has only a little algae floating on top but, as shown in the picture above, it's rather extensive in spots. It's an endless battle. Nature wants to grow and cover. Man wants to enjoy an unobstructed view.

Wandering Wheels Trail Blazer's Trip

 As in past years, my brother, Bob Schmidt, took a Wandering Wheels bike ride. This year he took part in their Trail Blazer Trip from June 20 to June 21, biking from Gaston, Indiana to Losantville, Indiana.

 Bob had breakfast with Larry Sabin, his riding partner, at the Mill Street Inn in Gaston. They then parked at a school in Gaston and biked 32 miles south along the Cardinal Greenway to Union High School in Modoc, Indiana. "We stayed indoors (on the floor) at the high school overnight," Bob said, "and biked back on Sunday to Gaston."

 Bob left here a day early - on Friday, July 19 - and drove to Upland, Indiana where the Wandering Wheels Retreat House is located. "We slept there overnight on pads on the floor (although they do have bunks)," Bob said. They ate well the night before their excursion. At Ivanhoes they downed "Good food and ice cream," he said.including "a huge strawberry shortcake with whipped cream and ice cream ... to die for!"

 There were 51 people on this ride this year. "Mostly families with kids," Bob said. Here are the pictures that he took and Bob's narration:

"School in Gaston where we started from on Saturday. Some of the kids that rode."

"Greenway 500 bike shop and bike frame in tree.
This is where Larry and I almost wrecked  with wheels rubbing as we looked at the bike in the tree."

A mileage marker on the Cardinal Greenway. Pretty fancy!

"Park where we had lunch on Saturday south of Muncie."

"Same park with Wandering Wheels trucks in background."

 Looking towards an old railway bridge from the bikeway. Near Muncie, Indiana.

 An unused railway bridge.

 A closer view of an unused railway bridge.

Here's a map of the Cardinal Greenway Trail, the bikeway this trip followed.

"Had a choco taco ice cream and a double cheeseburger.
Larry got a hamburger with cheese. Sounds like a cheeseburger to me."

"Larry trying out unicycle. I don't think so," said Bob.

"Larry trying out recumbent trike in the parking lot at Modoc High School."

Friday, July 26, 2013

Ginger Snaps

 It doesn't take a lot for me to decide to bake something. Getting up in the morning is usually reason enough.

 I was looking through our box of recipes this morning, trying to find my favorite recipe for molasses cookies and came up empty-handed. A search of the net didn't turn up the recipe, either. Mom suggested I look for ginger snaps, instead. I found a recipe I liked and made a batch.

 The recipe isn't mine, of course, but it didn't take long for me to make a few minor notes (and changes) on the copy of the recipe I printed:

1. No need to follow directions. Just soften the margarine in a microwave and begin adding the ingredients. I always add sugar and egg first; I always add flour last. I just followed the order of the ingredients otherwise and poured them all together at once.

2. In my opinion, the completed cookie dough needs to be refrigerated an hour before you work with it. Otherwise it will be too sticky to handle.

3. I rolled the first dozen in powdered sugar. I didn't like the effect and won't do it again. It just adds mess and the finished cookie is pretty enough - and sweet enough - as is.

4. I noted two changes. Rolling the dough into one inch balls gave me 35 cookies, not 18. And ten minutes wasn't nearly long enough for a baking time. Each of my trays (a dozen at a time) took exactly 16 minutes to become perfectly baked.

 The combination of ingredients - especially the liberal use of cinnamon, clove and ginger - is perfect. So is the necessary molasses.

 So now we've got nearly three dozen to munch on and share. This recipe is little work and well worth the effort.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Close Call for Rain

 Nearly a week ago, on July 14, after a hot, dry day, I happened to look out a south window and see a billowing cumulus cloud, its top lit by the setting son. I worried about waking Mom if I went outside - the security system warns us when an outside door has been opened - as I looked at her sound asleep in her tiny bunk bed, snoring quietly.

 I climbed the steps and brushed my teeth instead as the cloud inched nearer. At last I grabbed my camera and headed out into the yard. It was still nearly 90° and almost as humid and I stepped into the crunchy, dry grass.

 There, due south, was the cumulus, built to incredible heights, and bearing the soft, orange-apricot glow of the setting sun. It was a powerful sight surrounded as it was by mostly blue sky.

 I looked at radar and saw that this storm had dropped rain on Cincinnati and was traveling north and westward, still just south of Middletown as I took this shot. The sun, already set, cast its light on only the very top of the cloud, making it that much more unique.

 A wider view shows our next nearest neighbors to the south. The cloud looked to me as though an atomic bomb had been detonated in the distance and the mushroom cloud was rising quickly through the atmosphere. Instead, it was a gentle, friendly rain-maker.

To the southwest, the waxing moon completed the view. I stood there in the end-of-day heat, saw the rain scooting by to our south and west and missing us completely. As of today, we've had just 0.05" of rain in the past 13 days. It is brutally dry for the lawn and garden and I have to drag a hose around and water, particularly my new grass seed, each evening.

 Before I stepped back inside, I looked to our west, the usual direction we'd expect to get our weather from. But not tonight. These dark clouds were moving west, away from the Miami Valley. They had the appearance of a mountain range in the distance.

 And so a quiet night was ahead. I heard no thunder as the storm retreated and it blessed us with not a single drop of rain. As near as Moyer Road in German Twp. they had a brief downpour.

Black Walnuts Begin Falling

 Each year I watch a nearby black walnut tree and note when the large green-hulled nuts begin littering the ground. Am I mistaken that this is usually an autumn event? Did I not find black walnuts as a child in September and October?

 Why, after all, is Camden's Black Walnut Festival in late October otherwise?

 For the past few weeks, each morning as I walked, I noticed immature nuts began littering the ground. I expect that ... the tree is aborting defective nuts, else the weather has had a hand in their lack of proper development. I take note of this, watch their multiplication, and step around them and continue on my way.

 I notice a similar response in our oak. Once the blossoms set in the spring, I'll begin to see tiny immature acorns scattered across the driveway while their siblings develop clustered tightly to the branches. Summer is a time of abundance but it is also a time of tidiness. Those nuts which have no hope of proper development are thrown away like yesterday's trash.

I've carried these first two nuts home, hanging my cell phone on a belt clip. palming the camera in the other hand. I've found a section of newspaper in our recycle bin and spread it out on the work bench in the garage. The green nuts will dry there, turn a dark, blackish brown. When the colder weather comes, I'll carry them to the woodpile and mash the dried husk away with a hammer. If I wait long enough, till they dry, I do not have to wear gloves to protect my hands from the stain.

 My vice, also on the work bench, serves to break the hard shells and I'll bring just a few inside each day as the year winds down. Mom will carefully pick the meat from each nut, gathering the shells in our compost pan. The next morning I'll dump the broken shells out in the garden while Mom adds the valuable black walnut meats to her container of nuts.

 While I love the larger English walnuts for my applesauce-raisin cupcakes, I always add these home-grown black walnuts to the batter. It is a more biting , pungent taste, one that speaks of a past Ohio autumn in the depths of winter.

 I love the black walnuts the more because they are freely given to us by nature. The work required to get at the nuts as well as the time involved is intrinsic in the beauty. The tree blossoms again as I nibble on a sweet muffin; the snow begins to fly outside Pinehaven's window as I remember today.