Monday, October 26, 2015

Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter

 I've had this on my calendar for some time and I've been watching each morning when I take out the trash. Venus and Jupiter have been inching closer together every day. Today (10/26/15) they are just a single degree apart in the sky.

 Here's what Stellarium showed for 7 am (looking due east):

 Had I thought of looking, in addition to Mars (as shown), Mercury was also visible. I saw it last Tuesday, low in the east, as I drove to the YMCA in West Carrollton.
 I went outside at 7 am with my camera already fixed atop a tripod and I walked into the back yard ...

 This looks exactly like the Stellarium sky chart for the same instant. Click on the picture for a higher-resolution version which shows ruddy Mars better.

I aimed the camera a bit differently for this shot and changed both the aperture and exposure length as an experiment.

 Widening the view, I am just behind the garage which has a night light glowing on the ceiling and provides the light seen through the window. This is nearly a normal vision shot and shows how Venus and Jupiter appear to be nearly touching.

 For a final shot I walked to our north lawn and shot this towards the Scotch pines that line the road at the eastern edge of our property. It was quite dark as I took this. The longer time exposure (ten seconds, I believe) brings out the sun's influence on the horizon, nearly an hour before it was to rise.
 I suppose I would not have been able to see Mercury even if I had looked for it. There were bands of clouds obscuring the view. Soon after I took these these shots, more clouds gathered in the sky and the view was greatly degraded. So the timing was perfect for these photos.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Six More Pines Down

 It seems like every year I have to ask Bob to stop by with his chain saw and take down a number of trees. Earlier, as you know, I had two large ash trees removed professionally. They were far too large for Bob to handle safely (though he probably could have).

 I've mentioned to him that I'd like to get the rest of the dead pines taken down before winter. A week ago I asked whether this weekend would work. He said it would. Bob, Mom and I went out to eat at Captain 9's in a late celebration of Mom's 90th birthday at 11:30 am and then we came back to Pinehaven, changed clothes and got to work.

 I had five or six pines dead in front of the hen house and near the log pile. That was handy for stacking the logs today's work generated. I asked Bob to begin cutting the left-most trees and work to his right as time permitted.

 Turns out this bluebird house bit the dust when the wooden bracket that held it got sawed in half. "Well, hell!" Bob yelled as the birdhouse rolled across the ground. No problem. The house itself wasn't damaged and I've already rehung it no worse for the wear.

 Cutting all the small debris which fell into the yard was the hardest part of the job. I dragged smaller limbs to our brush pile at the back of the property. We just threw smaller stuff into the meadow to decompose.

 Any log big enough to use in the fireplace we kept. Smaller pieces - like this one - got thrown out.

 This was the next-to-last tree Bob cut. All fell pretty much exactly where he planned. He's good with cutting notches in the trunk of the trees and planning a landing sight. He has a good feel for how they naturally lean.

 This last tree turned out to be the greatest challenge. It was larger, as you can see, and already leaning toward the hen house. "Will it hit?" I asked Bob. "I'm going to try and make it fall to the right of the hen house," he said.

 And he cut this notch with that in mind ...

 This shot is of the tree just beginning to fall. Mom was watching through the kitchen window. "I had a ring-side seat," she said. I told her she had probably dialed 9 and 1 and had her finger hovering above the final one. Luckily, that wasn't needed.

 Oops. The tree fell part way and ... stopped. Now what?

 Bob sawed the base of the tree the whole way through. Still the tree wouldn't fall. It was caught up in branches of other nearby trees.

 And this was as far as it would go until we threw a rope up into it and dragged it down. Even that was a two-step process, eventually the obstruction weakened and the tree toppled to the ground. I'd say it missed the hen house by all of two inches.
 We then carried logs to the pile and limbs to the brush pile and finally raked the yard.
 I'm left with only the double-ash at the back of the property which is dead. There's nothing nearby that it can harm if it falls and it's beyond eyesight. For now, we're just going to let it be.

Cincinnati USA Book Festival - 2015

 Still called Books by the Banks, this years re-named Cincinnati USA Book Festival seemed a little less busy to Tom and I. But maybe we're just getting used to the crowds. It was certainly well-attended by any measure.

 Here's the main room where authors manned small booths and had a chance to greet their readers. And to sell their books.

 Tom's sole purchase was a copy of Tom Sawyer. Sure, the classic was written by Mark Twain but illustrator CF Payne has re-imagined the scenes and characters. That's him selling a copy to Tom. Read about Payne's bringing a "new look" to the classic by clicking here.

 The event is held each year at the Cincinnati Convention Center, a venue that has some interesting architecture.

 Children are kept busy with face painting at this booth ...

... and these guys who quickly twist balloons into the shapes of various animals and more.

 We were there just an hour or so and the attendance seemed steady, if not overly-crowded.

 Purchasing a book required getting into a l-o-n-g line where finally you were met with a row of cashiers. I'll have to say, the line moved rapidly and the wait wasn't longer than ten minutes.

 Beautiful weather (sunny, low 50's) for this years festival.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Beatles - Crosley Field - August 21, 1966

Next summer will be the 50th anniversary of the Beatles concert at Crosley Field in Cincinnati. It's a high point of my life to be able to say I was there.
 I wondered whether I could locate the picture I took that day - just the one, if I remember correctly. I carried a rather bulky Polaroid J33 with me, the kind that used black and white roll film which had to be pulled out of the camera and sealed with a sticky substance on the spot. And all the while fans were screaming and the Beatles were playing.
 I found the photo with others, in my closet, and it brought back memories of those two days in August.

Beatles - Crosley Field - August 21, 1966
© William G Schmidt - All Rights Reserved

 The concert was actually scheduled for Saturday evening, August 20, 1966. I had just turned 17 in July and wasn't that familiar with Cincinnati so my father agreed to drive us down. I ordered two tickets earlier in the spring from a Cincinnati radio station, probably paying less than $5 each. Sheryl Clever accompanied me.
 Dad parked on a side street and said he'd wait for us there. We walked to Crosley Field, took our seats and found a severe thunderstorm approaching. Soon enough an announcer said that the concert had been cancelled, that it was too dangerous for the Beatles to play electrified instruments in the rain. The Beatles would return the next day at noon.
 Dad, of course, wasn't happy about yet another trip to Cincinnati but I certainly give him credit for realizing the importance of this event and taking us back on Sunday morning.
 When the Beatles ran onto the field wearing neat pinstripe suits (grey with pink stripes), pandemonium broke loose. There was screaming louder than a jet plane for the next half hour. They began with Rock n' Roll Music and ended with Long Tall Sally (set list is available here). The highlight for me was when McCartney sang Yesterday.
The 30 minute set was over too quickly but the memories have lasted forever.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A Total Eclipse of the Hive

 We happened upon a hornet's nest at the Farmersville-Jackson Twp. Park the other day (10/10) and saw this dark blotch against the sun.

A total eclipse of the hive ...

 I was told that a few days earlier, hornets could be seen buzzing about the hive. But on October 10 all was quiet. In the past, I've thought the season ended later than this, or with the first frost if earlier. This year there has been no frost, nor any particularly cold weather.

 The huge nest is situated in a crab apple, perhaps fifteen feet off the ground. It is directly beside the pond.

 And so I left on the 10th with this final shot through the branches of the tree.

 I went back today (10/13) with my camera (the other pictures were taken with my cell phone) and zoomed in a bit to show the beautiful texture of the "paper" from which the nest is constructed. Gorgeous work, careful craftsmanship.

 A hornet's nest is made for one season. Though the queen may overwinter in the nest, the rest of the hornets are gone. And so the winter wind, snow and ice, will tear this apart before spring. Frankly, in this public spot, I am surprised that it has survived this long. A number of people (Mom and I included) would love this nest for decorative purposes. But it will stay where it is, as nature intended it. She alone should decide when it comes down.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Whirlwind Trip North

 Tom and I spent most of yesterday in his Prius, threading the roads to Findlay, then Deshler and finally Waldo. We started about 9 am and didn't pull back into my driveway until 6:30 pm. The four legs of the trip were:

Farmersville to Findlay: 123 miles
Findlay to Deshler: 23 miles
Deshler to Waldo: 84 miles
Waldo to Farmersville: 108 miles
Total Trip: 338 miles

 First stop was in Lima at a Cracker Barrel just off I-75. The idea was to get a meal before the noon rush. That part worked. Beating the traffic didn't.

 I ordered a vegetarian plate: macaroni and cheese, potato casserole, fried okra and slaw. "It's all yellow," Tom laughed when the waitress sat down the plate. She said she had noticed that, too. Well, it was great food anyway. Tom got a large salad (with chicken) and a baked potato.

 Next stop, Edith Avenue in Findlay where Tom grew up. This is his childhood home. There have been some additions but Tom said the basic look is much the same as it was all those years ago. He lived here from birth to when he left for college at Miami University.
 I took a picture from across the street when a lady stepped out of the house. We explained who we were and she invited us to "look around" all we wanted.

 Tom's always been into planting trees - just like me - so he had a chance to visit a couple of old friends, including this walnut, preparing itself for winter. It was already mostly bare.

 And this tulip poplar. He remembers when it was no more than a sapling.

 Then we went to Maple Grove Cemetery, almost on I-75, Tom's parents and little brother are buried here.

 Here's Tom's brother's grave, right beside his parents.

 A wider view of the family's headstones. They are almost hidden behind a thick shrub at the side of a nearby grave.

 Then to Deshler where we visited  Tom's step-mother, Clara Buhler. She'll be 99 next month. She recently sold her home, a blue farmhouse, not far from the nursing home where she now resides. She lives at Oak Grove Healthcare Center on Water Street.

 We picked a good day to stop at the nursing home. There was little traffic on the country roads leading to the home and Tom was able to park near the front door.

 Final stop: Waldo, Ohio, where we dropped off an accordion with Pam Beery who met us in  the parking lot of the Norton Sporting Goods store there. By late in the day (4 pm) a cold front had crossed the area and a cool breeze was blowing.
 We got home about 6:30 pm, a little later than we hoped, but early enough to help Mom with her nighttime chores and get her to bed. So, lots of miles in a short time, but a great day nonetheless.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Barn Roof Sealing

 It's been a long while since we had the roof sealed on the barn. Ten years? On September 22 I was out mowing when a truck pulled into our driveway. "Do you remember me?" the man asked. It was Pat Sherlock who sealed our barn roof all those years ago.

 "Looks like it could use another coat of paint," he said.

 I told him that I'd want roofing cement (tar) but if he could do that, I'd be happy to consider a written estimate. He walked around the barn, made some notes, made an offer and I told him to go ahead and schedule the work.

 It's been more than "the next few days" but the weather hasn't cooperated. It's been cold and misty and Sherlock said he'd been waiting for good weather when we called me last evening. So the work was scheduled for today.

 His worker, Robert, drove his own truck. He's the one who's been here all day. Sherlock has been out and about getting supplies, checking for other work in the area.

 One small mishap: tar ran through a gap in the first roller he used and dripped onto the white aluminum fascia just below the roof-line. Robert wiped that off with gasoline on rags (mostly anyway) and said he'll give the board two coats of white paint to complete the clean-up.
 The tar-stained fascia can be seen at the left edge of this picture.

 Tar is in five gallons buckets. Sherlock originally estimated that the job would take two. But it's required four. "That roof is really soaking it up," he said.

 Robert's working on the west end (north side) of the barn at the moment. He "trims" around the skylights first then edges the area before rolling the rest. The trick is, I suppose, not to paint yourself into a corner.

 This shot was taken at about 2:30 pm. The two men arrived about 10:30 am so there's four hours passed already. The work is perhaps half-way done. The section of the barn where we keep the mowers (east end) hasn't been started.

 The weather looks great throughout the week. Hopefully this will fully dry before it rains again.

 Here's shots of the completed project (about 5:30 pm):

 Contact Pat Sherlock at 859-661-5963.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Old Spaghetti Factory

 Tom and I have been wanting to try The Old Spaghetti Factory in Fairfield but our schedules never agreed with their open times. Turns out they're open for lunch on Saturday and Sunday at noon, not just the dinner hours as posted on their sign at the door. Yesterday we made plans and showed up about 11:40 am.

 There was a cold misty rain falling but we sat on a concrete bench by the door. Soon the manager opened it and invited us to wait inside where it was warm and dry. Good customer service already!

 This is the view when you enter.

 Above the entrance is this magnificent light. I'm told many of the fixtures in this location were moved here from the downtown Cincinnati location which was closed.

 "Pasta Classics" indeed. I chose that first item ... spaghetti with marinara sauce. You get three items for one price: the main dish, a salad (or soup) and dessert. A small loaf of bread and soft butter is also served.

 There's a trolley inside The Old Spaghetti Factory and seating within it. Tom and I were seated near a window.

 Good light! Tom is in his usual contemplative mood while we wait for our meals. He's always laid-back and easy-going, never needs to be calmed down (unlike me in the Cincinnati traffic).

 The miniature loaf of bread and soft butter arrive first. Delicious ... and yeasty. Warm through and through.

 I chose a salad (rather than soup) and their house dressing. It's something of a ranch dressing with pesto. A fresh taste and quite different than anything I've had before. Tom looked up as I was finishing. "You've eaten your salad already?" he laughed. "You must have been hungry". And yet it was he who had skipped breakfast. Me, skip a meal? No way!

 Tom's spaghetti topping was rich in mushrooms.

 Tom ordered a side of broccoli. Perfectly cooked (not at all mushy) and with a nice hard cheese grated liberally atop. This is another unique taste.

My own spaghetti was topped with marinara. Plenty of small diced tomatoes, too.

 Another plate finished. I'd have licked it clean but for a number of other patrons arriving.

 Dessert? Spumoni in the traditional three flavors: strawberry, chocolate and pistachio.

 Total cost: $12.24 for myself. With tip $15. Wonderful food in a striking atmosphere with terrific people, too.