Wednesday, December 14, 2016


The island across from the cottage yesterday, just after the snow quit.

It snowed yesterday…the first real snow this time around. What the old folks would have referred to as a "sticking snow."

Heretofore the closest we'd come were a few flakes swirling about on northerly winds a time or two over the last couple of weeks. Never enough to scoop up a teaspoon full, let alone whiten the ground. 

But this one wasn't messing about—it began early, soon after daylight, and kept at it until mid-afternoon. Four or five inches worth. The sky stayed dim and sullen the whole day. 

Today, the sun is shining bright and the sky's a radiant azure blue. But numbingly cold—3˚F for last night's low and only 12˚F now, an hour before noon. Too cold too soon! Most years we never experience such arctic lows before mid-January.

Ahh, well…that's Ohio for you. And cold or not, the snow is lovely. 

The same island view, except made today with blue skies and sunshine!


Monday, December 5, 2016


Great blue heron, stalking a breakfast fish along the river near the cottage, on a cloudy morning a few days ago.

Well, it's been awhile. Longer, certainly, than I intended—though in truth, maybe just long enough. Looking back, it was painfully obvious I needed a break. My posts were boring, repetitious; I could feel myself getting stale.

Ongoing remodeling work had literally engulfed my life and mind. I've scarcely made a photo in months, other than an occasional shot from around the yard or along the stretch of river which flows past the cottage. From early autumn until just before Thanksgiving, as time grew shorter, I became increasingly exhausted both physically and mentally—desperate to finish several projects before the holidays. 

This was accomplished, thanks to the tireless and expert help of my wonderful neighbor Mike, who did practically all the plumbing. A huge worry lifted off my mind! 

During my hiatus, several dear and faithful readers—true friends—called, messaged or emailed, wondering if I was okay. I was, except for a trip to the E.R. in November, to drain 100-plus mls of fluid from under an injured kneecap. That flat hurt! And I do apologize to those made fearful during the week-long recovery, when I gimped around the house at high-speed—a one-crutched Chester (remember Gunsmoke?)—and doubtless a mortal danger not only to myself but anyone nearby, especially those inadvertently trapped in a hall or doorway.

Thank you, one and all. I can't begin to tell you how much I appreciate your thoughts and concern.
I probably won't be posting more than a time or two per week for a bit. I continue working on the house when I can, and still need to saw and split sufficient firewood to get us through winter. On top of which, Christmas and New Year's loom, with their attendant preparations and celebrations. 

But I've returned—and glad to be back, because it honestly feels like coming home.   

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


At bedtime last night, the temperature inside the cottage was 70˚F. and doubtless several degrees less than that outside. Even so, I decided to leave the whole-house fan going—pulling cool air in through every open screen.

When I got up at 5:00 a.m., the outside temperature was a chilly 56˚F…exactly the same as the temperature inside the cottage!

Nope. That's not a complaint!

Fact is, I feel great—energized, rarin' to go. I've already fixed breakfast for Myladylove and myself, washed the dishes, taken a short walk along the river and made a few photos, written next week's column which is due tomorrow, and driven the few miles to my local Home Depot where I spent nearly an hour picking out GFCI plugs, looking at mirrors and vanity lights, and trying to sort through the options for a ventilation system I want to put together and install at this stage of my remodeling job.

That's more stuff accomplished already than I've sometimes managed for an entire day when temperatures climb toward the 100˚F mark!

Life is is not a beach…it's frost on your pumpkin. I'm cranked when it's cool!

Friday, September 9, 2016


Early morning…a great blue heron takes a drink from the rain-refurbished river.

It rained last night. A long, soaking drizzle which began about 9:00 p.m. and continued until an hour or so before dawn. The passing storm cooled things off considerably, invigorating the air, while the steady drip and patter coming through the open screen provided great ambient noise for sleeping. Today, the landscape looks fresh-scrubbed and the river seems livelier—murky rather than muddy, up by maybe a couple of inches.

For the past few days I've been working on the final phase of our bathroom remodel. This necessitated removing drywall off two walls, rerouting various electrical lines and fixtures, plus making several temporary plumbing adjustments—even though a neighbor and I plan to convert the cottage's entire plumbing system to PEX in a couple of weeks. 

Neither the bathroom or laundry area, the two rooms in which I was working, offer much ventilation. With all the drywall dust being created, fans were not an option. So in a "dead air" room of a non-air-conditioned house, outside temperatures of 90˚F and higher assure sauna-like working conditions inside. Hot, stuffy, tough on breathing. Sort of like working inside a nailed-shut coffin. 

I drank water by the gallon, sweated it out as fast as it went in, and had the quickly discharging energy capacity of an old iPhone battery that needed replacing years earlier. Not fun.

Occasionally I needed a break from these sessions of necessary abuse—when the heat, exhaustion, lack of oxygen, dust inhaled into my lungs, and near-blindness caused by the steady bath of salty sweat streaming into my eyes became unbearable. So I adjourned to the side yard where I'd set up my sawhorses and work tables, for an alternate project constructing a floor-to-ceiling cabinet for the bathroom. 

Yes, the oxygen supply outdoors was more plentiful. And I am indeed smart enough to have placed my work site in the shade under several towering sycamores. But 92˚F in the shade is still 92˚F…an oven is still an oven! And the once-per-hour lethargic stirring of the air—not anywhere close to being sufficient to call a breeze—brought little in the way of relief. 

But I persevered, prevailed, and survived. I think. And yesterday evening, amid much shoving, cajoling—and when that failed, judiciously applied application of a few vicious whacks with a rubber mallet—Myladylove and I managed to set this recalcitrant cabinet in place.

Now, if only it stays cool for awhile…

Saturday, September 3, 2016


Here's something you don't see every day…a black groundhog! I've only ever seen one other black-furred woodchuck—and that occasion, several years ago, afforded merely a fleeting, drive-by glimpse at some distance.

Like spontaneous magic, this amazing individual simply appeared in my yard the other morning, pausing no more than ten feet beyond the window! I was truly flabbergasted!

The expected coat coloration for groundhogs is a basic, run-of-the-mill brown. Black-furred wild critters are few and far between here in Ohio. A few black squirrels in small colonies scattered throughout the state—though none anywhere near my southwestern bailiwick. And in Ohio's Appalachian foothill regions—miles away from these pastoral precincts—you might spot one of the handful of black bears who call the Buckeye State home.

Otherwise, the only black mammals you'll see are wandering cats and dogs. My visitor was a genetic anomaly—an atypical, dressed-in-sable, melanistic-phase whistle-pig!

Melanism is an overdevelopment of the dark-colored pigment—melanin—in fur, skin, feathers, or scales. It's the opposite of albinism, which is a lack of color pigment, and can occur in any animal, including birds and reptiles. Those classy-looking black squirrels are really melanistic-phase gray squirrels—a fairly common occurrence. 

Over the years I've seen any number of melanistic-phase animals, including various hawks, whitetail deer, raccoons, and foxes. But when it comes to groundhogs, I'm told melanism is extremely rare. 

I'm fortunate such a unique creature came my way—and glad I can share this singular treat.

Friday, August 19, 2016


While recently poking about a local prairie patch, thinking to make a few photos of butterflies and blacked-eyed Susans, I chanced upon a humble bumble bee working a pink clump of fragrant milkweed. Deciding it might make a good shot, I zoomed in, focused and—just getting started—clicked off a single image. 

Huh? Something fast and shadowy swooped through the viewfinder. The bee suddenly disappeared. 

I lowered the camera and began looking around…and there on a nearby stem was the answer: the breakfasting bumble bee had become breakfast for a marauding robber fly. 

Talk about a good morning gone bad! 

Robber flies are the insect equivalent of saber-tooth tigers. Fast-flying aerial predators with sharp eyesight and a proboscis designed for stabbing, through which they inject a powerful neurotoxic venom along with digestive juices to liquify their victim's innards—which the robber fly then sucks up like a sort of smoothie. 

Amazing creatures, really. Though truly bad news if you're a bee. The old folks sometimes called them a "bee panther." Which is pretty apt…and puts me in mind of that old Ogden Nash ditty: "When called by a panther, don't anther." 


Friday, August 12, 2016


Here in southwestern-Ohio, the high temp again exceeded 90˚F yesterday, as it did the day before and the day before that, ad infinitum. Global warming? Cosmic payback for building one too many strip malls or freeways? 

I dunno. Maybe it's always been that hot between April and October. My memory banks are just too over-cooked to trust. Remembering an occasional cooler stretch during July and August could be a mere fantasy on my part, an illusion based on wishful thinking.

I won't even mention the muggy, smothering humidity! Let's just say those fancy new high-tech moisture-wicking fabrics have met their match!

Nope. The only meaningful information—the only answer we wring-us-out-like-a-washrag suffers care about—is this: Is summer is almost over?

YUP! I have been to the field and witnessed with my own sweat-stung eyes. THE IRONWEED IS BLOOMING! And anyone who knows anything about the seasonal passage can tell you—when the ironweed comes into bloom, summer's days are numbered. 

Ironweed doesn't lie and it's never wrong. The clock is ticking. The countdown has begun. Here in Buckeyeland the ironweed is blooming!



Monday, August 8, 2016


Last Friday, in spite of having that very morning posted a heartfelt whine about how uncomfortable I'd been and how much I disliked the recent heatwave, I decided to take a ramble and make a few photos.

No joke! Middle of the day, sun a'blazing, temperature pushing ninety, not a cloud in the sky or a breath of breeze stirring…and I set off to visit a nearby prairie. A stifling, wide open field of grass and weeds and waist-high wildflowers, where, on a bright August day, the merciless sun beats down on you like a sledgehammer!

Yup, it sounded like a masochistic whim even to me!

I did it anyway—no doubt a telling factor in regards to my already questionable sanity. What's more, I had a pretty good time, in a sweat-drenched, near-smothered, shake-and-bake sort of way. And I'll share some of the photos during the next week or so, starting with this pearl crescent butterfly atop what I think is a really scraggly ox-eye bloom.

Moreover, in retrospect I suppose there was some sort of lesson to be learned from my outing…though that might simply be a delusion resulting from early-stage heatstroke.


Friday, August 5, 2016


I'm not a fan of hot weather. Daytime highs in the 70-75˚F range are fine—but anything above 80˚F is beyond my comfort level. And it doesn't matter whether it's a "dry" heat or accompanied by a humidity level one notch shy of rain. 

Hot is hot, and I flat don't like it!

The past couple of weeks have been a sweltering, searing ordeal. Typical for southwestern-Ohio this time of year. The dreaded Dog Days. And to us boreal-natured types, pure torture. 

Day after day, unrelenting highs of 90˚F, give or take a degree. Soaring humidity. No breeze. Like being locked in a perpetual sauna. 

My energy and enthusiasm have been completely zapped. Work on various projects has suffered. This means I not only feel miserable, but guilty about not getting things done as quickly as I'd planned.

Summer has always been my least favorite of the four seasons. Though I'll admit I'm pretty good during the first half—until the heat cranks up and begins taking its toll. While there's admittedly plenty of outdoorsy stuff to enjoy, lots to do and see, plus all that tasty fresh produce straight from the garden…the overall discomfort of the unrelenting oven-like weather—muggy, searing, to the point where I feel like a pork shoulder roasting over a charcoal grill—cancels out most of the pleasure. 

Guess I'd rather shiver than sweat!

Monday, August 1, 2016


A few mornings ago when I was set up in the side yard, busily cutting some trim material to go around the kitchen window, this formidable looking beetle came marching across my outdoor work table. 

I sat the circular saw aside and bent down for a closer look. Viewed head-on, he looked like the starring creature from some 1950s-era horror flick.  

Oh, ho! The thumb-sized fellow reared-up, mandibles spread, threatening to do me immediate bodily harm. A wholly unwarranted attitude, I thought—after all, he was the trespasser. Not that I feared having a finger lopped off…but had I been foolish enough to give an investigatory poke, a reciprocal pinch would have been painfully swift.

Nope, I've been bitten, stung, and otherwise savaged by more than my fair share of critters over the years, and didn't need laceration-by-beetle added to the list. I was perfectly satisfied to admire this nasty customer from a safe distance while taking the time to make a few portrait snaps—even while he continued to act downright unneighborly. 

Afterwards, I scooped him onto a sycamore leaf and relocated him to the other side of the yard. "Go intimidate a squirrel, or try biting the groundhog up by the driveway," I said as he lumbered off. 

Frankly, I'm not sure even the neighbor's pit bull is safe with with this bad attitude bug on the prowl! 



Friday, June 17, 2016


For the past week or so, I've been caught up in finishing the kitchen remodel which was begun and got mostly done last year. I've rearranged and added to the shelving over the butcher's block work table, installed a second LED light overhead, changed out a small LED work light over the sink, and fitted trim molding around the counter's backsplash area. Doesn't sound like much, I know, but each small task seemed to take hours…which probably says more about my carpentry competence than the actual work involved.

I still have to do trim around the window, and one of these days Mayladylove and I have to choose what sort of floor we're going to put down atop the subfloor. But that decision/job aside, next week it's on to the last phase of the bathroom redo…and when that's done, the great room—floor, walls, maybe even ceiling. 

But I'd like to take a brief break, so I'm thinking about playing hooky this morning to sneak away for a couple of hours of photography. Maybe at a little pond I like, which is just up the road, or perhaps I check out one of the nearby prairie patches—though flower-wise, not much will yet be going on there; prairies come into showier bloom later in the season.

Should my intended escape come about, I'll put up any good photos within the next few days. This post has pix I've taken recently around the yard—grab shots, made between the to-and-fro of work.

Saturday, June 11, 2016


I saw this flame-red, quarter-inch-long bug climbing up a tiny stem amongst my walkway patch of chocolate mint, gleaming like a tiny jewel within the shadows. I have no idea what it is, though I'd guess some sort of aphid. But you gotta love such an astonishingly bright little creature…and I have enough chocolate mint about that I don't mind sharing.

It rained here most of yesterday, quite hard at times. Brief downpours that seemed almost tropical. I thought the river would be up more than it is. In fact, and in spite of all that rain, it has risen no more than a few inches and is merely murky but not muddy—fishable if I were of a mind to do so. 

Today it's supposed to be mostly sunny with a high somewhere north of 90˚F! Our hottest day of the year so far. Which is fine since we're going to a birthday party this afternoon for my delightful granddaughter, Anya Grace, who turned two last week. Perfect weather for celebrating a perfect girl!

On a side note, I expect the picnic table and benches I recently completed will get their first opportunity to be put to use. I delivered them to my daughter last weekend. A blog post or two back, I promised Gail I'd stick a photo of the end results in here when I finished. Well, I forgot to make a photo before delivery. My daughter, Lacy, snapped one for me after she'd done her painting. Trust me, her multiple coats of white paint makes them look way better. I am a carpenter's son…but I wholly lack my father's consummate skill and woodworking artistry. At best I'm adequately competent. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2016


It's sunny, though relatively cool…69˚F the last time I checked. Nevertheless there are several turtles—map turtles, I think—basking on a rock in the big riffle adjacent to the cottage. (Only two are visible in the photo above, but there's another, even smaller one, on the back side of the stone beyond the largest specimen.)

Getting a bit of sun sounds like a pretty good idea to me. I've been working inside all day—writing, fiddling with several household chores, warming up a bowl of soup for a late lunch. Not a full day's worth of labor, to be sure, but enough that I think I've honestly earned an hour's break on the chaise lounge—maybe even a snooze. 

Afterwards, there are 16 salvia plants, bought yesterday, which I need to get in the ground. And a whole bunch of stuff to water. 

Monday, June 6, 2016


Yesterday was a lovely June day—sunny and warm in spite of a few passing showers too insignificant to count. Myladylove and I mostly spent the day moving plants around outside and doing general yard work. 

The only semi-disaster occurred indoors, while I was off making a quick run to the grocery for a few summer squash to cut up and combine with some sausage for our lunch stir-fry. 

In one of those labyrinthian fits of female reasoning, logically abstruse to us lesser males, Myladylove decided to fill the brief minutes of my absence by repainting a kitchen wall. She taped off cabinets, corners and sink counter, spread a tarp on the floor, readied brushes, roller, and paint pan. All she then had to do was stir the paint in its bucket—for which we have one of those paddle mixers on a rod which you chuck in an electric drill.  

So far, so good. Being the designated family painter, she's successfully done this plenty of times in the past. What she hadn't done was used any power drill other than the old variable-speed Craftsman. When she realized the Craftsman's battery needed recharging, she decided to use the high-speed, industrial grade Dewalt. A drill is a drill, right? 

Well, not exactly, as she subsequently discovered…while also learning why paint mixing is something best done outdoors 

Where the Craftsman putters along rather sedately—a retired schoolmarm in her Buick heading home from church—the Dewalt snaps from zero to screaming-fast in about a millisecond—a top-fuel dragster being driven by Don Garlits! 

An explosive power-surge that's magnified if you've moved the speed selector up from 1 to 2!

Alas, I was not there to actually witness what must have been a truly awesome spectacle. When I got back, much of the clean-up had already taken place. The tarp, subfloor, and Myladylove's lower legs and feet were still covered in blue-gray Valspar acrylic latex…Arctic Ice, if I remember the hue's specific name. There was paint dripping from various points and objects, clothing, and areas of personal anatomy. But according to the perpetrator, what I saw paled by comparison to what I would have found had I arrived only a few minutes earlier.

However, all's well that ends well. Everything that needed cleaning eventually got cleaned, including Myladylove's lower extremities. The subfloor's blue-gray splotches will one day be covered. Lunch turned into an early supper. And though about a third of the gallon of paint is gone, plenty enough remains to get the job done. We'll have another go at painting that kitchen wall at some later date.  

I also suppose a lesson or two was learned in the process. Maybe.

But just between me and you…I'd loved to have seen the look on Myladylove's face about two seconds after she squeezed the drill's trigger!                

Friday, June 3, 2016


I've been waging war with honeysuckle almost since the day we moved here. Like another war, in a long-ago time and a land far, far away, this is ultimately an unwinnable conflict—at least from the Big Picture perspective.

But I don't care about winning the war, per se; this is personal! I care about winning battles. My battles. Fought on my modest acre of riverbank land. Battles I can and do win! All it takes is due diligence, sharp, loppers, a brush saw, and plenty of sweat and hard work. Plus a caviler disregard for self-induced bloodletting, twisted ankles, and the endless sticky spiderwebs netting themselves across your face, down your back, or in your hair—occasionally with their eight-legged builders attached. 

My latest victory is what you see in the photo. The tree-framed upstream view of the riffle directly in front of the cottage, as seen from the side yard. When I started you quite literally could not see the river. Watery glints at the most here and there through the wall of green honeysuckle leaves. 

I know it doesn't look like much. But believe me, it didn't come easy. Nearly a day's worth of labor…er, battle…in mid-80˚ temps. Perhaps a dozen feet, plus another also-cleared 50 feet you can't see to the right of the above image. Sixty feet total.  

A view worth fighting and lopping, sawing and sweating, and spitting spiderwebs for! Hooray! 



Saturday, May 28, 2016


I've just tossed out scoops of cracked corn for the paired Canada geese who call this stretch of river home. At the moment the birds are standing on a gravel bar fifty yards upstream…but I've alerted them with a wave and whistle. They won't exactly come when I call, but the irresistible notion has now been implanted. In a few minutes they'll float downstream and climb up the bank for breakfast.

I've also deposited a bit of corn between the cracks in the deck's planks for the little gray vole—"meadow mouse" to some, though technically they're not mice, but a mouse relative—who lives somewhere underneath. Voles have short tails, rotund bodies, and small rounded ears. I think they're cute, though Myladylove disagrees. At any rate I try and feed the little creature regularly, with a thought to keeping it safe by helping minimize its exposure to stalking cats and aerial-attacking hawks.

The great blue heron has been wading about the big riffle in front of the cottage, trying to provide for its own morning meal. So far I haven't witnessed any fishing success—but then I've not been watching all that much, and it doesn't take but a moment for the bird to nail a minnow and have it summarily swallowed.

As usual there's a plethora of squirrels at the feeders. Seven as best I can tell, though possibly more—they're hard to count, being busytailed blobs of perpetual energy.  

A female red-bellied woodpecker is investigating the rotting stump I keep for a seed holder near the front door. Red-bellieds, downies, and pileateds are all abundant here, and at least one or two will be part of the feeder crowd practically every minute of any day.          

I'm getting ready to head to Lowe's for a couple of boxes of deck screws to finish off a couple more benches for the yard. Last week I built a picnic table plus two unattached benches for my daughter—though they're yet to be delivered. But I was so pleased with the benches that went with her table that I decided I'd modify the design a bit and build three or four along the same lines to scatter around the yard. I'm always looking for a handy place to sit and watch the river. 

That's about it so far as a riverbank report goes. An ordinary morning. The temperature is supposed to climb to 85˚F today, with possible showers this afternoon. More summer than spring. But nice weather for this Memorial Day weekend.        

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


The calendar claims spring has sprung. I'm beginning to wonder.

Yes, the grass is lush and green. Birds are singing. Fish are biting. And here along the river, throughout the corridor woods, the trees' verdant canopy of supple new leaves is already well on its way to filling out.

But yesterday morning we woke up to a heavy frost. One of those scrape-your-windshield deals that lasted until well after sunrise. And many of the perky garden flowers, so bright and colorful the day before, were now dispirited, sadly wilted, with more than a few fatally smitten by the night's unseasonably low temperature. 

It was a plain chilly 34˚F when I got up at 5:30 a.m. And while we received only frost, folks in the northern part of Ohio had an unwelcome dose of snow! 

Egads! Thank God there's still plenty of firewood remaining. At this rate we may be burning the stove until July.    

Saturday, May 7, 2016


It's been a rather bumpy road lately.

I had a colonoscopy a week ago this past Thursday. They did remove a couple of pre-cancerous polyps. But that's no big deal. Drinking the vile pre-procedure prep solution was really the worst part—especially since I had to chug-a-lug the second half-gallon starting at 3:00 a.m.

On Saturday night, a violent thunderstorm came through. The next morning we arose to find a power surge had zipped up the cable and fried both the modem and router. No TV or Internet. Bummer. 

Sunday, Myladylove did a Women's Wellness Walk for breast cancer awareness, I bought mulch, and later we worked in the yard. The daytime high approached 80˚F! I fixed steaks on the grill for supper and we ate on the deck and watched the river, birds and sunset.   

Monday morning I began bleeding. A lot. I called my gastro doc who'd done the colonoscopy. He suggested I go to a nearby lab and have blood levels checked. If the bleeding didn't stop, another colonoscopy was in the offing. 

Oh, joy.

Tuesday, still bleeding. Another blood check. Levels definitely dropping. Because I take blood thinners, which I'd been off before the surgery, but restarted after, my doc wanted to give me two days off again before the now definite surgery, scheduled for Thursday morning. 

Tuesday evening, still bleeding, feeling pretty weak, I have another blood levels check—down another point!—and after again conferring with my doc, decide I'd better check into the hospital. Myladylove drives and we head to the E.R. There, I have a new blood levels check, a CAT scan, and a few other things. Not quite to the point of needing a transfusion, but heading that way. "You can spend tonight, tomorrow, and tomorrow night here, we'll monitor your blood levels, and you can have your procedure…or you can spend the time at home, pay attention to how you feel, do your prep tomorrow, and always head back here if you get to feeling worse—lightheaded, trouble thinking—or if the bleeding increases. A bit of a risk, but not much. Your call."

In spite of the fact it was midnight, Myladylove and I returned home, which is only a very short drive from the hospital.

Wednesday I sat around, read, bled, drank clear liquids, didn't watch TV or browse the Internet, and choked down another gallon of disgusting prep concoction.

Thursday I had another colonoscopy. Bleeder was located and cauterized. Everything went fine. I understand why Michael Jackson liked propofol, it is a delightful—albeit potentially deadly—anesthesia.

Bottom line (nope, no pun intended) I'm doing fine. No further bleeding, though I haven't yet restarted blood thinners. But I feel great and yesterday I traded the old fried modem for a replacement, bought the latest and greatest AirPort Extreme router from the local Apple store as my new Wi-Fi base, rerouted the cable line, installed and set up the hardware, and…ta-da!…have returned to the digital folds. About time, too, as Myladylove was exhibiting worrisome withdrawal symptoms.

A bumpy road, for sure—but not all bad.

Thursday, April 28, 2016


Apparently this is going to be one of those on-again, off-again weather days—dark, cloudy and looking like rain one minute, only to turn sunny and bright the next. The wind is gusting and I regularly hear not-too-distant thunder rumbling. But so far only a single brief drizzle has fallen. 

None of which is a complaint. It's April, and this is typical spring weather here in southwest Ohio. I actually rather like moody and mixed days. Though such capriciousness is playing havoc with the cutting and fitting of materials needed for a little bit of remodeling I'd hoped to finish on the kitchen today. 

Because I have no garage, carport, or even a shed big enough to serve as a workshop area, the back of the pickup is stuffed with plywood, 2x4s, and similar building materials and serves as my rolling "lumberyard." The tailgate is a makeshift workbench. And I must set up any power tools—drill, sander, circular or saber saw, along with the sawhorses—out in the open…which means I have to keep an eye on the sky and be quick get things into the dry should I think it's about to rain.

Unhandy, frustrating, and more than a little risky given the price of good power tools—especially given my tendency to become focused on the task at hand and oblivious of my surroundings. There's a better than even chance I'll forget to pay attention and stuff will get wet. I have no illusions when it comes to my propensity for distraction… 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


Recent warm weather and the occasional rain has really popped the hostas. Their leafy green clumps have shot up like magic. Some are already well over a foot high.

The photo was made a few days ago, just as the late-afternoon sun was starting to sink behind the tops of the tall sycamores on the island across from the cottage. Myladylove and I were sprawled in our pair of deckside rockers. Tired and fairly bummed. After working all day on various kitchen remodeling details, we'd come to the joint conclusion neither of us liked the paint color we'd chosen and just applied to one wall. We'd now have to buy something else and do the job over.

Looking around, I noticed how low-angled sunlight glowed through the semi-translucent leaves of a nearby hosta and made a couple of casual shots…click, click. Frankly the image turned out way better than I expected. Simple, straightforward, compositionally strong.

Wish I was even half this pleased with the kitchen wall.


Sunday, April 24, 2016


It's chilly out this morning, 39˚F as I write, though predicted to warm considerably by midday. The sun is bright and the sky a high, cloudless blue. Because the temperature of the air above the river is cooler than that of the water, a silky veil of fog has been created—soft, ethereal, lovely. I decided to make a photo or two before the rising sun burned this temporary overlay away. 

That red bit in the upper center of the image is a male cardinal who was singing loudly the whole time I stood on the deck fiddling with the camera. 

I saw him sitting there, heard him of course (you can't NOT hear a redbird singing 20 feet away!) but never thought to include the bird in my photo. Guess my pre-coffee brain couldn't handle dealing with multiple compositional elements. That he ended up in the shot anyway was only by accident. 

Alas, no artistic decision was employed…just dumb luck. 

Friday, April 22, 2016


Age and beauty. The more you attain of the first, the greater amount of help you'll need to retain the second. Just ask anyone in the cosmetics industry. Or last year's hottest fashion model. 

Closer to home…if that flaming conflagration of birthday cake candles now sets off the smoke alarm, all you gotta do to dissuade yourself from thinking you're immune from the process is to take a long honest look in the mirror. Though not something I'd recommend if you're already on antidepressants. 

Time always wins in the end—even with cheese and wine. The highest mountains eventually yield. Still, being past-your-prime doesn't inevitably mean a spontaneous loss of beauty. 

Earlier this morning an aged dandelion bloom caught my eye. The bright yellow flower head had gone to seed. The remaining fluff ball had lost the majority of it silky-white "parachutes," which looked not only sparse but a bit damp from the dew.  


I've gone to seed. Turned rather white on top. And lost a worrisome number of parachutes to life's prevailing winds. Moreover, I've lately been avoiding mirrors except to shave—and I then tend to look a bit sparse and damp myself.

I can't decide if there's a message here…or whether I want to know. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


"Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly…"

I hate to say it, but Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein got it wrong in the latter part of their lyric for the Show Boat tune, "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man." Of course, they probably weren't all that familiar with nuthatches.

If you're a nuthatch, flying is optional…as is gravity. 

Should a nuthatch wish to get from one portion of a forked tree trunk to another, it could hippity-hop down one and ratchety-climb back up the other. Or it could just keep its wings tucked, fling itself in the intended general direction, and trust the rest to luck and levitation. 

Nope…birds don't always gotta fly! Not if you're a nuthatch!   

Monday, April 18, 2016


I've been watching a pair of hairy woodpeckers busy themselves in the dooryard as they investigate a fallen box elder and several dying ash trees. While quite similar to a downy, the hairy is a notably larger bird and sports a longer bill.   

Hairy woodpeckers are always a treat. A generally common species throughout this corner of Ohio, they're fairly unusual visitors here along the river. Downys, pileateds, red-bellieds, and flickers are the daily fare. Hairys are infrequent visitors—though not as uncommon as yellow-bellied sapsuckers, and certainly not as rare as a red-headed woodpecker. 

I expect the reason for their relative scarcity is, in part, due to the woods hereabouts, which is merely a thick river-corridor belt of mature trees. Probably not sufficiently extensive to suite a hairy. My backyard pair were likely curious strays who followed the streamside timber down from a much larger expanse of floodplain woods which begins a half-mile upstream.

Too, when compared to their look-alike downy kin, hairy woodpeckers seem a bit wilder, easier spooked, less tolerant of houses, people, traffic. A thoroughly sensible and quite understandable attitude.   

Regardless, I'm glad they found their way here. Hairys make me happy! 

Saturday, April 16, 2016


Right now my yard is a riot of violets. Thousands of 'em, all a'bloom! 

Yes, violets are invasive, but ravishingly so. Neither ugly nor harmful, just merely prolific. Common wildflowers which are uncommonly comely. 

Every April I await their coming. Violets signal spring—and to my mind are all the more dear for this vernal connection. They are fundamental to the burgeoning season. I welcome their lovely purple-blue invasion.  

So ravish me…please! I truly don't mind. 

Friday, April 15, 2016


A lot of waterfowl enthusiasts claim a drake wood duck is hands-down the handsomest of all American ducks. In fact, many birders place a male woodie near the top of the list as one of our two or three prettiest birds, regardless of category.

I don't know if I'd go that far—our perception of what constitutes beauty being such a fundamentally subjective call. But I'll agree that a male wood duck in full regalia is astonishingly colorful—perhaps even gaudy…a feathered rainbow who seems to know he's elegantly imposing as he paddles in stately splendor along the edge of an April stream.

The above photo certainly doesn't do justice to this striking fellow. Not enough "reach" with my 300mm telephoto to properly fill the frame. But the best I could manage during the minute or so it took for the pair (note the far less colorful hen swimming a few yards to his rear) to cruise past the cottage near the island's tangled bank. 

One of the things I look forward to every spring is watching pairs of wood ducks on the river. Alert and easily spooked, they aren't the easiest birds to photograph—and the truth is, I've never really tried. Maybe this year I'll make doing so a project. I'd like to be able to post a really day shot. The gorgeous woodie deserves a more worthy portrait of his royal attire.      

Thursday, April 14, 2016


It's sunny here today. Which makes it the second sunny day in a row! I believe this sets a record for the month! 

Various weather intelligentsia claim we'll reach a blistering mid-60˚s high! Moreover, they predict even warmer weather for tomorrow and fo several days thereafter.

I'm trying to not get my hopes up too much…but  could April finally be coming around to acting and feeling like spring?

Apparently the birds and squirrels think so—at least they seem inordinately energetic this morning. 

The resident pair of Canada geese have been flying up and down the the river, honking full-volume to beat the band.

Nuthatches, cardinals, bluejays—practically the whole feathered host of dooryard regulars—have been working the seed feeders and the cracked corn I scattered out earlier. 

And the squirrels, either the Silly Seven or Nutty Nine (frenzied bushytails being difficult to count) are dashing about, chasing one another, leaping through treetops, and occasionally thundering across the roof like deranged buffalo.

Yup. Spring fever has indeed afflicted everyone—myself included. I awoke in a mood of constructive inspiration. So overcome, in fact, that I'm now fixing to head to Lowe's and procure materials for a backsplash and wall covering for the area over the kitchen sink. 

Will wonders never cease! 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


Spectacular sunsets are not regular occurrences here along the river. Oh, we have the occasional gaudy display. But because we're located in the lower part of the landscape (rivers don't flow on hilltops, you know) we're generally below the best view of any final dusk lightshow. 

Sometimes, though, the Master Painter throws up a sunset so spectacular and all-encompassing that even us folks in the bottom of the barrel can be properly awed…and last night's offering was one.

The photo doesn't come close to doing it justice. Not in color-range, vivid intensity, and knock-your-socks-off wow-factor. A pathetic attempt at best. You really had to be there! 

Moreover, it was one of those wrap-around, everywhere sunsets where the spectacle wasn't located only in the sky's western quadrant, but splashed from one horizon to the next—north, south, east, and west. Fiery colors which drenched the full 360˚ canopy. All the light, all the sky, suffused with yellow-pink-orange-lavender and a thousand hues in between, and here and there, just for artistic contrast, intermittently laced with streaks of glowing turquoise. 

A genuine "Oh, my!" sky.


Saturday, April 9, 2016


Another weekend morning…and another morning landscape white with snow. Snow which fell during the night and continues to fall. And of course, the concurrent cold temperature that goes with it—26˚F when I checked earlier, with the day's predicted high to reach only 38˚F.

This is getting to be an unnecessary and unwelcome habit. As much disheartening as it is annoying. Where's spring?

Admittedly, it isn't much of a snow as snows in Ohio go. Probably less than an inch, though it's currently snowing more at this very moment—a fine sifting blizzard, swirling about thick and furious, so perhaps the grand total has yet to be determined. 

But depth isn't really the issue. The problem is timing, season, and our collective expectations. We all want and expect green, but we keep getting white! Where was this snow—paltry though it is—back in January or February, or even March? But April? Sheesh! Why decided to show up now!

And really…temps in the mid-20s˚F? Come on! After all those lovely near-70˚F and above days served up during the year's first three months, why turn wintry now that we've rounded the corner into this first full month of spring? Such shoddy behavior is simply unacceptable. Who offended the weather gods?

As someone on Facebook said, rather succinctly: "Go home, April…you're drunk!" 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016


Another cold spring day. The current temperature is a chilly 27˚F. Plus a dusting of snow arrived during the night.

Not our usual April weather! The violets, daffodils and tulips are looking pretty wilted. Luckily most of the latter have not yet bloomed. 

Still, today is more congenial than recent offerings. There's no appreciable wind. Skies are blue and clear—not a cloud in sight. And best of all, a beaming-bright sun affords a marked psychological improvement over yesterday, which was cold, windy, damp, and darkly overcast.

On the down side, my pickup is in the repair shop. I have no doubt it's affliction will turn out to be expensive…the cost of which, if my history regarding such matters holds true, will doubtless consume every penny of the recent tax refund check. I just wish I knew how these nefarious cosmic forces always seem to know the exact balance in my bank account?

In the meantime I'm temporarily grounded. No wheels, no mobility, no running up the road to ramble for an hour or two along a nearby trail—checking on birds and wildflowers and the burgeoning greenery, while keeping a much-needed vernal tryst with a favorite woodland.

Huh. I suppose I'll just have to bide my time and do some actual work.