Fall migration

Beneath scalloped clouds,
Chimney Swifts drew southerly
loops above the trees.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

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Scalloped clouds. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

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Fall has arrived, but we already knew that

attheproduceauctionbybrucestambaugh

At the produce auction. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Ready or not, fall has arrived. It is an understatement to even say that the signs of autumn are all around us.

Even so, I couldn’t be happier. I love almost everything about fall. The colors, the cooler, less humid weather, the crispness of the air, the foggy mornings followed by clear, lustrous skies, the lulling sounds of crickets, and the rich, airy fragrances all captivate me.

verdantfarmsbybrucestambaugh

Verdant farms. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

On one recent morning, when the fog filled the lowlands long before dawn, I decided to take a drive around the countryside. I wanted to see what I could see, read autumn’s early signs like so many billboards. They weren’t hard to miss.

By the time I began my trek, the strengthening sun had melted the mist away, revealing a cloudless, deep blue sky, the kind you see in paintings, but seldom take note of when it’s right overhead. I wanted to put my busyness aside, and truly absorb all this glorious day had to offer.

It offered much. I rejoiced that I had traded my time for her blessed offerings.

If I looked close, butterflies zigzagged around the abundant autumn blossoms. They adored domesticated gardens and roadside wildflowers indiscriminately.

Lush fencerows of oaks, maples, ashes and sassafras seemed a tad thinner, losing single leaves with every pulse of the morning breeze. A few trees showed signs of succumbing to the shorter and cooler days. They blushed while their neighbors held fast, verdant.

Commercial businesses joined the celebration, too. Showy seasonal displays of mums, corn shocks, and pumpkins bedecked old vehicles or wagons or wheelbarrows in front of stores. Nature’s natural marketing had friendly competition.

Along roadways, streams and farm fields, remnants of summer’s floral display stood stark and brown, even before a killing frost. Winged insects and assorted animals would munch the seeds of this unsightly bounty.

The rays of the late morning’s sun created beautiful landscapes. Bright red barns, though not newly painted, boldly contrasted with the green, green pastures that surrounded them.

Many a farmer outside our area would love to see such a scene given their parched situations. Years of drought have taken their toll. I am grateful we have been under the extended cooling care of the polar vortex since last winter.

Like giant puffy marshmallows, large, round hay bales covered in white plastic rested side by side along outbuildings and edges of fields. It’s just one more reminder of how productive the hay harvests have been this year. It’s also good to know that the plastic covering can be recycled.

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Migrating birds fall out of the morning sky to feed and rest in freshly mown hayfields, or in marshy woodlots. They’ll be off with the next weather front or a favorable north wind to help speed them on south.

Prudent caretakers have lowered and cleaned Purple Martin houses, and covered them for the season. Come the Ides of March, they’ll be spruced up and hoisted for their tenants return.

That may seem like a long time away with the fall only just begun, and dreaded thoughts of winter pondered. However, the older I get, the faster time seems to fly.

That’s why I wanted to spend this morning just seeing what I could see, before October’s steely clouds rush low overhead, spitting fat flakes. That thought alone makes me shiver.

If fall has a fault, that’s it. It leads to winter. Until then, I’m going to enjoy every minute of everyday fall sends our way.

How about you?

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Nutrition and beauty. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

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Filed under Amish, column, Ohio, photography, writing

Preening

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Preening. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014

The mid-morning sun beautifully highlighted this Mute Swan preening among the lilies in a bay near Port Clinton, Ohio. The position of the lily leaves, soft greens behind swan, the silvery water and the faint reflection of the swan made “Preening” my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

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Goodbye clubs, hello goofy golf memories

longputtbybrucestambaugh

Long putt. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Years ago our son temporarily left an assortment of golf equipment with us. Clubs, bags, shoes, tees, and golf balls sat in a corner of the garage gathering dust and cobwebs. Some of the clutter was mine.

Nathan recently came to retrieve his stash, or at least what he wanted. As we cleaned and sorted the gear, long dormant memories of wonderful, frustrating flashes of golf awakened within me. I wished a few had remained sleeping.

Other than miniature golf, I took a mulligan on golfing long ago. It’s even a stretch to say I had golfed. Hacked is a better descriptor.

Golf spans generations in my family. I have my grandmother’s old golf clubs. The set includes real wood drivers and oak shafted irons with pitted heads and rich patina. I’m keeping them just the way they are, stored in their original canvas bag.

toughshotbybrucestambaugh

I remember having to hit from behind trees too many times. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

I remember seeing old black and white photos of my mother golfing, too. But I also recalled my outdoor sportsman father scoffing at men and women wasting time “chasing a little white ball around on grass.”

That didn’t stop me from trying. Occasionally in the summer, my neighborhood buddies and I would head to the nearest golf course, rent clubs and smack our way around the links.

I piddled with the sport in college, and continued doing so after I married. I think my wife only went once with me. That shows just how smart she is.

thedrivebybrucestambaugh

My son’s drives, and form for that matter, were always much better than my own. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

My playing increased considerably when I became a principal. I quickly discovered that many school administrative meetings were held under the guise of golf outings. A lot of important school related decisions were made between shots.

My play was erratic at best. I only ever had one golf lesson in my life, and that person would likely deny she ever taught me. I was that bad.

Every time I was ready to give it up, I would hit the occasional fantastic shot. Those kept a dim hope alive. I once holed a long, undulating putt that earned me a milkshake. That was about the extent of my golfing rewards.

When our young son showed an early interest in the game, we gathered garage sale clubs for him to practice. And practice he did, hitting the ball around our property using trees for holes.

I both marveled and cringed when balls sailed much too close to the house. When Nathan beat me when he was nine, I decided to invest my golf time and money in him, not myself.

He played four years of varsity golf both in high school and college. He even participated in college national championship matches.

chipshotbybrucestambaugh

If this would have been me instead of my son, the ball would have been wet after this chip. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

I half-heartedly continued to slash my way around courses. I swatted some mighty poor shots, too. I accidentally killed a robin that bounded onto the fairway just as I hit a low screamer off the tee. It was my only birdie of the day.

At a prestigious country club, I hooked a ball far out of bounds onto a main highway during evening rush hour. I prayed no one would get hurt. The bumper-to-bumper traffic miraculously cleared just as the ball hit the double yellow centerline. In one giant bounce, the ball landed harmlessly in a yard, and I offered up a silent prayer of thanks.

I blinked, and continued sorting what to give to our grandchildren, items Nathan wanted, and which equipment went to the local thrift store. The golfing memories, good, bad, and hilarious, are mine to keep.

Fore!

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

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Wagonload

wagonloadbybrucestambaugh

Wagonload. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014. (Click on the photo to enlarge it.)

Since our home sits on land sold from an Amish farm, many opportunities to capture rural life in action present themselves. I sometimes have to act quickly, however, if I want to capture them. This image of our teenage neighbor guiding the workhorses pulling a wagonload of just cut cornstalks was one of those times. I happened to glance out the window and saw the wagon heading back to the barn. Unlike tractors, horses don’t make much noise when working. I grabbed my camera, and snapped a couple of shots before Bill and Bob, the draft horses, rushed the wagon out of sight.

If you look closely, you realize there is a lot going on in this shot. The first thing that caught my attention was the texture of the gathered cornstalks. The tan tassels, the long, dark green leaves all bending to the force exerted by Bill and Bob, and urged on by David, the driver. I thought the appearance of the chopped stalks laid and carried horizontally on the wagon boldly contrasted with those still standing in the cornfield directly behind the wagon.

More importantly, note the rhythm of working together that Bill and Bob nicely demonstrate with their almost unison strides. For the record, the cornstalks were ground up into mash, and stored in the silo for future feed for Bill and Bob and the other livestock on the farm. In addition, cutting the outside rows of corn, and a few through the middle of the stand of corn allows freer movement of air to help dry the remaining standing corn.

This photo is more than simply showing a young Amish boy leading a wagonload of harvest. It exemplifies the efficiency and purpose of Amish farming. “Wagonload” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

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Miles apart, two locales share many marvelous traits

eveningreflectionsbybrucestambaugh

Fernandina Beach harbor at sunset. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Amelia Island, Florida and Lakeside, Ohio might be nearly a thousand miles apart, but they have a lot in common. People would be at the top of the list.

First, though, I am grateful that I can visit each destination. Second, I’m glad my wife also loves both Amelia and Lakeside, and, well, me, too.

Personal disclaimers aside, each destination features special attractions unique to its setting. And yet, though one location is in the Sunshine State and the other in the Buckeye State, they are not that dissimilar.

Sure the vegetation and critters vary significantly, but are intriguing nevertheless. They are much more alike than you might imagine.

My wife and I discovered Amelia Island almost by accident. On our way to Sarasota, the hot spot for greater Holmes County snowbirds, we made an overnight stop on Amelia. It was love at first sight.

We stayed nearly on the inviting sands of the 13-mile long Main Beach on the Atlantic Ocean. Between the motel and the sand a family owned restaurant served delicious, fresh, locally caught seafood.

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On the trip home, we further explored Amelia Island, discovering its historic town of Fernandina Beach, founded in 1562. Its quaint shops and showy old homes sit on the Intercostal Waterway. You can’t beat sunrises on the Atlantic, and sunsets on the harbor. Need I say more?

That was four years ago. Yes, we’re heading back this winter, too.

Conversely, I knew Lakeside since I was a kid, and that’s a long time. Our parents took the family there a few times when I was young. Needing a getaway, I introduced my own family to the Chautauqua on Lake Erie 27 years ago. We haven’t missed a year since.

The lake lures you to its enticing shore where giant oak, ash, maples and cottonwoods shelter parks and steamboat-style cottages. Visitors gather on the concrete dock for luscious looks of dawn and dusk.

Since it’s a gated community in the summer, kids can run free without the normal parental fears of life beyond the gates. Lakeside is not just family friendly. It is family based, founded as a Methodist church camp in 1873.

All that said the people of both Amelia Island and Lakeside are the mortar that cements the palms, the ocean and the exotic wildlife just as they do the lake, the shuffleboard courts and the ice cream shops. Amelia Island and Lakeside both have character and characters. It’s the latter that really makes you feel at home.

Amelia Island hosts a nice mix of natives, retirees and sun seekers, permanent and temporary alike. Residents are courteous to tourists who ask too many questions, or drive like they’re lost. They might be.

Want to meet a cross section of the populous? Attend the weekly farmer’s market Saturday morning held on a section of closed street in Fernandina Beach. Or attend the farmer’s market on Tuesday and Friday mornings held on a section of closed street at Lakeside. Different states, same tasty results.

At the Fernandina Beach marina, a dockworker awaiting a yacht to refuel spins stories aplenty. You’ll learn a lot.

At Lakeside, if you admire someone’s cottage, their flower garden, or wonder what game they are playing on the front porch, just ask. They’ll be glad to share.

Destination locations like Amelia Island and Lakeside have lots of attractive charm. It’s their genuine hospitality that keeps people coming back, including us.

lakesidefountainbybrucestambaugh

Fountain at Hotel Lakeside. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014

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Bird on a wire

birdonawirebybrucestambaugh Bird on a wire. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

I was creeping along in my vehicle watching for shorebirds along Wilderness Rd. in Wayne, Co., Ohio when I spotted this young Red-tailed Hawk hanging out on the power lines on the opposite side of the rural road. I loved the silhouette of both the hawk and the wires. Also, the afternoon sun highlighted the bird’s head and tail feathers.

“Bird on a wire” is my Photo of the Week.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

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