Monthly Archives: September 2010

Celebrating life’s successes

One room school by Bruce Stambaugh

A one room school in Holmes County, Ohio.

By Bruce Stambaugh

When a former student of mine asked for my mailing address, I was more than a little curious.

Having been a school principal for 21 years, being told by a former student to watch the mail for a package could be potentially alarming. But I knew Wilma, and had seen her joyous posts on Facebook.

I wasn’t concerned in the least. But, like I said, I was curious.

A couple of days later a puffy brown envelope arrived in the mail. Inside was a laminated badge that was my ticket to this gregarious woman’s 40th birthday party. I was impressed and pleased to be included until I saw the date.

My wife and I had a potential conflict that evening. Wilma said she was sorry to hear that because the evening was really more to celebrate the top 20 people who had influenced her life.

The top 20? This put the gathering in an entirely different light. How could I not go? I was humbled and a bit surprised to say the least, given the number of people Wilma must have known in her lifetime. I had no idea I had had that kind of influence on this successful, professional, vibrant woman. Of course we rearranged our schedule and made the celebration a priority.

After the party’s uncomplicated meal, Wilma went one-by-one around the room. She shared with those in attendance specifically how each person had impacted her life.

When my turn came, Wilma related to the group that as her principal I had visited her parents four different times encouraging them to send her on to high school. I had no recollection of any of the visits. Maybe I should run for President.

Wilma proceeded to say that I was the only person to encourage her to extend her education, and she would never forget it. For once in my life, I hardly knew what to say.

Following her parent’s wishes, Wilma did not attend high school. But later she did get her GED and her bachelor’s degree and is now working on a graduate degree in clinical psychology. What a success story. Maybe I’ll be her first patient.

This grateful woman detailed how others had energized her life when she needed it the most. Her lavish, infectious laughter and joy permeated the party.

Now, Wilma had inspired me. I mentally listed the 20 most influential people in my own life. There had been so many who had helped me along life’s way. I had a hard time narrowing it down.

A handful of people on my list were former teachers and professors, too. Several of them had already left this earthly realm.

There are those for whom I still have time to thank. I have committed to personally commend them individually for the positive role they have played in my life. It will be fun to share the good news.

Following Wilma’s lovely example, I encourage you to do the same. Who are the top 20 most influential people in your life? Have you told them? If not, maybe a celebration is in order. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate dinner party. It could be something simple, like a personal note or even an email.

Whatever method you choose, take time to express yourself to those who have swayed your life for the good. Be yourself, and let the grateful words flow.

If you do, be ready for showers of sentiment and fulfillment to overwhelm you. Wilma knows exactly what that is like.

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The trellises worked: A tomato success story

Brandywine tomatoes by Bruce Stambaugh

Red Brandywines ripening in the shade of the tomato trellis.

Tomatoes ripening on the vine by Bruce Stambaugh

Tomatoes ripening on the vine.

How did our tomatoes grow this year? They did quite well, thank you very much, and little thanks to me. My wife did most of the work. I just took the pictures and enjoyed the bounty.

As you may recall, we tried something different this year. Tired of the weighty tomatoes collapsing the stakes and metal cages we “secured” them with, my wife found a plan for tomato trellises. Our son, who has become quite the food guru, lives in a loft in Wooster, Ohio, 16 miles north of us. He and his wife have no outdoor space for growing the vegetables and herbs that he loves to use for his gourmet cooking. (See the May 27, 2010 post entitled “A beautiful morning well spent.”)

Amish farm Ohio by Bruce Stambaugh

The Amish farm on which our home is built.

Our house is built on an Amish farm four miles southwest of Mt. Hope and four miles northwest of Berlin, the unofficial capital of Ohio’s largest Amish population. In other words, we’re out in the country with Amish neighbors and farms all around. Since our son drives right by us every workday, he asked to join us in our limited gardening. After the drought of 1988, we gave up most gardening. My wife turned to flower gardening, which adds a multitude of color to our little acre and a half each growing season.

Wildflower garden by Bruce Stambaugh

The backyard wildflowers are only some of the beautiful flowers my wife cultivates each year.

The tomato trellis plans called for plenty of space, which required me to dig out more yard along the bricked garage wall at the south end of our home where we annually grow the tomatoes. We have discovered that the tomatoes seemed to thrive on the extra heat radiated by the bricks.

I dug out the grass by a couple of more feet, spaded the ground and added some horse manure the neighbor supplied when he fertilized the fields adjacent to our home. Our son, my wife and I erected a pair of the trellises on May 15. My wife purchased and planted a dozen heirloom tomato plants. Varieties included Hillbilly, Striped Zebra, Black Krim, Mortgage Lifters, Red Brandywine, Roma’s, and Old German. A friend from church also gave us an unknown variety. And several Yellow Pear tomato plants volunteered from last year’s crop.

Driving tomato stakes by Bruce Stambaugh

Our son drove 7 ft. stakes into the ground to form the support of the trellis.

We purchased seven foot oak stakes at a local nursery. The original plans called for eight-foot stakes, but the sevens were the best we could find without having some special ordered at a much-increased price. The main stakes were pounded into the ground, and the lateral ones were spaced and tied with garden twine.

The plants seemed to grow slowly the first month. But once the summer heat and humidity really kicked in, the tomato plants boomed. My wife repeatedly tied the ever-increasing shoots as best she could. Still, the end result looked like a jungle.

The plants are still producing, but with the peak of the season behind us, the plants production has slowed considerably. We did have to fight a bit of blight throughout the summer, but the plants continued to thrive. And we enjoyed their abundant production.

Green Zebra tomatoes by Bruce Stambaugh

Green Zebra tomatoes growing on the vine.

I especially enjoyed the Green Zebras and the Hillbilly. They were sweet and low on acid. Sprinkled with a little sea salt, they made many summer lunches on the back porch tasty and enjoyable.

My wife also made delectable tomato salads with slices and chunks of the different varieties offered on the same plate, sprinkled with fresh mozzarella cheese and virgin olive oil. Cuttings of fresh basil perfectly seasoned the offering.

Mixed tomatoes by Bruce Stambaugh

A plate of colorful heirloom tomatoes.

Sliced heirloom tomatoes by Bruce Stambaugh

Heirloom tomatoes ready to eat.

Canned tomato products by Bruce Stambaugh

Just some of the beautiful and delicious handy work of my wife.

Of course my industrious wife also canned whole tomatoes as well as chunked tomatoes, made tomato soup, and peach salsa. I did persuade her to reveal her delicious tomato soup recipe, which is as follows:

Tomato Soup

Group 1
14 qts. cut up tomatoes (preferably Roma’s)
14 stems of celery cut up
14 bay leaves
27 whole cloves
1 green pepper diced

Cook the above until all vegetables are soft. I use a roaster. Then put through a strainer. I let the initial liquid drain off before cranking the strainer handle. I can this for juice. Keep hot until ready to add group 2.

Group 2 (Note that any recipe with dairy products like butter and cream should be properly pressure canned.)
12 Tbsp. flour
1 # butter
6 tsp. salt
1 cup cream
16 Tbsp. sugar

Slowly cook group 2 to make a paste.

In a kettle/roaster bring the strained group 1 to a boil and add group 2. Stir often. Bring back to a slow boil. This is not a thick soup.

Put in jars, makes approx. 17 pints. Process in a water bath 30 min.

When ready to use put 1 jar in kettle with ½ jar milk and heat thoroughly.

Neva Stambaugh

Of course I tried to document the progress of the tomato growing and harvesting throughout the summer. Following is a sequence of how our tomatoes grew following the May 15, 2010 installation of the trellises.

Tomatoes mid-June by Bruce Stambaugh

Tomatoes mid-June by Bruce Stambaugh

Tomatoes mid-July by Bruce Stambaugh

Tomatoes mid-July.

Tomatoes mid-August by Bruce Stambaugh

Tomatoes mid-August.

Tomatoes mid-Sept. by Bruce Stambaugh

Tomatoes mid-Sept., beginning to die out.

Tomato blossoms by Bruce Stambaugh

Tomatoes in blossom.

Green tomatoes by Bruce Stambaugh

Green tomatoes on the vine.

Ripe tomatoes by Bruce Stambaugh

Ready to pick.

By the way, after the first frost, the plan is to disassemble the trellises and store them for the winter. We also plan on extending the growing area yet again to allow more room to maneuver between the garage and the trellises.

We found several advantages to using the trellises. They were much more effective in cutting the loss of tomatoes to dry rot. Varmints, especially the four-legged variety, caused less damage, and the tomatoes were much easier to pick.

If you used trellises or have other options and suggestions, we would like to hear them. Please leave a message with your successes, ideas and lessons learned.

Enjoy your tomatoes while they last.

Bruce Stambaugh
Sept. 29, 2010

Roma tomatoes by Bruce Stambaugh

Roma tomatoes awaiting the canner.

Picked tomatoes by Bruce Stambaugh

A variety of heirloom tomatoes.

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Gloria Yoder embodies the spirit of community

By Bruce Stambaugh

Gloria Yoder, 61, never ventured far from where her ancestors settled in Holmes County in the early 19th century. That’s just fine by her.

Based on what she has done and continues to do, the community is the better for it, too. In this case, the residents in and around the little town of Mt. Hope are the beneficiaries.

Yoder grew up on the family homestead on McClure Hill just west of Mt. Hope. McClure was her maiden name. Eli, her husband, was raised on a neighboring farm. They have been married 42 years.

The Yoder’s operate two popular area businesses. Mrs. Yoder’s Kitchen in Mt. Hope is noted for its hardy breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets. Yoder’s Amish Home near Trail, where they live, is a noted destination for tourists. She also operates the restaurant at the Mt. Hope Auction March through October.

Gloria Yoder by Bruce Stambaugh

As she normally does, Gloria Yoder bought several animals at the Holmes County Junior Livestock Auction.

Gloria has a keen sense of combining business with community service. She sees a commitment to community at the Holmes County Fair. She annually purchases prized and award winning animals at the fair’s Junior Livestock Auction.

“I like to help out the kids who work so hard with their animals,” she said while waiting to bid at this year’s fair sale. Of course, Gloria has a personal stake in the event. She was a 4-H’er herself and served 20 years as the advisor for two different 4-H clubs.

This year Gloria purchased the grand champion pen of three hens, the grand champion market turkey, a lamb, three hogs and several rabbits. That alone helped a number of 4-H participants. But Yoder doesn’t stop there.

Each year, Mrs. Yoder’s Kitchen offers a special fair buffet featuring the animals she has purchased. The buffet will be this Wednesday, September 29 from 3 to 8 p.m.

“We have people who come from as far as Cincinnati for our buffets,” Yoder said. She also calls a list of people who live out of town, and some out of state, to tell them when the buffet will be offered.

This year’s fair buffet will feature barbecued rabbit, roasted leg of lamb, smoked turkey, pan-fried chicken and beef tenderloin. Yoder said she expects about 500 customers for the buffet.

But Gloria’s life ranges far beyond the confines of her restaurant. She spends much of her time assisting with and organizing for community activities.

Besides supporting the 4-H program, she faithfully serves in the small United Methodist congregation in Mt. Hope. That includes organizing and recruiting help for the annual pancake and sausage meal held each April.

Gloria helps with the egg hunt each spring, and orchestrates the parade and live nativity scene each Christmas season. Local school children enjoy playing the different parts of the sacred story. Over the years, she said group singing was added, and last year the community held a special fundraiser for a local family in need.

“Our young people are our future,” she said plainly but sincerely. “Whatever little bit I can do to help, I will.”

As a leader in the Mt. Hope Merchants Association, she also helps make the annual July Sundown Sale successful and purposeful. This year, for example, a dollar from every meal sold along with money from the volleyball teams were donated to needy families in the Mt. Hope area.

Gloria has some very personal reasons for being so involved in the community. Only months after her only child, Trent, was born in 1972, Gloria spent three months in the hospital in Columbus.

In 1983, she had a serious car accident in Berlin, and just two years ago Gloria was diagnosed with blood clots in both lungs. She hasn’t forgotten how the community responded to her needs and those of her family.

“I feel very fortunate to be alive,” she said. “God has been watching over me, and evidently still has some purpose for me in life.”

“Once you face death,” Gloria continued, “everything takes on a new meaning. I have felt the community of caring.”

In spite of her busyness, Gloria does find time for herself. She enjoys gardening, and trying new recipes. It’s no wonder, given the fact that she has a collection of 250 cookbooks.

“I enjoy reading them,” she said. “You can tell a lot about a church or community by what they include in their cookbook.” Gloria said that if a recipe includes “a pinch” of a certain ingredient, “You know it’s from an old cook.”

Gloria said she remembers when Mt. Hope resembled a ghost town. But in recent years, thanks to the success of area businesses, the little town is booming. And that is just the way Gloria likes it.

This story first appeared in the Holmes Bargain Hunter.

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Breaking the diet for a BLT

By Bruce Stambaugh

Shortly after I had finished my usual breakfast of whole grain cereal, fruit and juice, I went to work in my home office.

However, I was soon distracted, not an unusual occurrence for me. But this interruption was too enticing to not track down.

The house had taken on a savory whiff I hadn’t smelled in a quite awhile. My wife was frying bacon.

Now in most households, that probably is a non-event. But in ours, the aroma of bacon sizzling on a griddle is an extraordinary occurrence.

A little more than two years ago, I was diagnosed with cerebral arterial sclerosis or hardening of the arteries in the brain. Besides taking a daily statin medication, my diet changed drastically overnight.

No more red meat for me. Fried foods were out, as were dairy products, processed and most starchy foods. In their place, I was allowed to eat fish, chicken and turkey, along with five to six servings of fruit and vegetables per day.

Simply put, if it had no legs or two legs, I could eat it.

The doctor was clear. If I didn’t change my eating habits along with exercising even more than I already was, I was a prime candidate for a stroke or heart attack.

My doctor was very compassionate in his approach to sharing the news. He revealed that he had the exact same problem and was following the same diet. His encouragement helped me make the necessary transition very smoothly.

This change had a huge impact on not only my life, but my wife’s as well. She is the chief cook in our household, and this new diet would change the way she shopped, cooked and ate as well.

Of course, eating healthier would also be an advantage for her. Not eating red meat was not an issue for her, and she loves fish as much as I do. She made the transition in meal preparation as easily as possible.

My wife found recipes and ingredients that fit my diet. Our son, the family organic guru, was a big help in providing advice and suggestions on spices and herbs to season and prepare food that fit my restricted diet.

With all of this background information, why was bacon frying in our kitchen? Well, I was cheating, with my doctor’s permission. After my first check up following the diagnosis, the good doctor was well pleased with the blood work results. The diet and increased exercise were working, assisted by the medication.

When he asked me how I was getting along with the diet, I told him that the only thing I craved were BLT’s, bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches. The doctor just chuckled and said, “Well, you can eat them now and then. Just don’t do it often.”

Those words were music to my ears. Or maybe better stated, BLT’s for my salivary glands.
With the heirloom tomatoes my wife and son planted last spring at their peak of harvest, BLT’s were once again on our lunch or supper menu now and then. And I couldn’t have been happier.

The bacon was obtained from a local farmer that raises and butchers his own hogs. The tomatoes were picked fresh from the jungle of leafy vines that climbed the trellises we built last spring.

Enjoying a delicious BLT may be a regular routine for most people. For me, it’s guilt-free, gourmet dining at its finest.

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A life of public service achieved

Lt. Richard Haun by Bruce Stambaugh

Lt. Richard Haun spends much of his time documenting cases on the computer.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Simply put, Richard Haun is living his dream.

As a teenager, Haun knew exactly what he wanted to do. With timely guidance and self-determination, he has more than achieved his goal. Not bad for someone yet to turn 40 years old.

Haun is actually Lieutenant Richard Haun of the Holmes County Sheriff’s Office. He has been with the sheriff’s office for 24 years. Do the math and the answer becomes apparent. Haun began his law enforcement career at that tender age of 15.

It really all began with some public service modeling by his mother and encouragement from a friend that got Haun thinking about life in law enforcement.

His mother served as an emergency medical technician, and a friend encouraged him to join the Boy Scouts of America troop that served as Explorers with the sheriff’s department.

“I always wanted to be a deputy,” Haun said. “That’s why I joined the Boy Scouts law enforcement Explorers Club. That’s how I got started and I’ve been here ever since.”

One assignment of the Explorers was to be a presence at the Holmes County Fair. He began making his rounds there in 1986 and hasn’t missed a fair since then.

“Once I got into the Explorers,” Haun related, “that’s when it clicked for me.”

Born in Millersburg, Haun grew up in Killbuck and graduated West Holmes High School in 1989. With his sights set on a career in law enforcement, Haun didn’t have much social life as a teen.

“I would go to school during the day,” Haun said, “then attend the police academy in Coshocton in the evening.” Haun said those classes ran from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“We even had some classes on Saturday,” Haun said. “I couldn’t even attend my senior prom because I had to qualify on the firearms range.”

Haun lives in Millersburg with his wife, Susan, and two sons. The Hauns have been married for 17 years.

Haun started as a reserve officer in 1988. He went full-time in 1989 as a dispatcher in the communications division and has worked his way up the law enforcement ladder one rung at a time.

Haun has been a road patrol deputy, the supervisor of road patrol, a court bailiff and a detective. Now he is supervisor of both the civil division and the child support division.

“When I started, we didn’t even have a computer,” Haun said. “We wrote everything down on a legal pad. Now everything is done with computers and legal pads are used as scratch pads.”

Haun spends much of his day doing electronic paper work on the computer. He has to stay up on changing laws and attorney general rulings and relay that information to the rest of the sheriff’s office staff.

“That’s the toughest part of my job,” Haun said. “Keeping track of all the necessary paper work is demanding.”

During his years with the sheriff’s office, Haun has seen first-hand how crime has changed. He said the sheriff’s office deals more and more with identity theft and computer theft.

“We sock a lot of man hours into online crime,” Haun said. “Sexual predators and embezzlement are increasing.”

Haun coordinates prisoner transports, court appearances, and monitors all of Children’s Services needs when it comes to background checks for employment and those seeking employment.

The various positions he has held have required him to train in all divisions. Haun said his experience and training, including online training, enables him to be flexible in his work.

“I’ve gone where I’m needed,” Haun said. “It’s all a part of the educational process.”

“I do regret not going to college,” he shared. “But if I were to count all the hours of training I’ve done, I probably would have some kind of degree.” He said he would encourage his sons to go to college.

Still, Haun has no regrets about the career path he has chosen.

“It’s a pleasure to be of service to the public,” Haun said.

This story first appeared the Holmes Bargain Hunter.

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Tornadoes hit Ohio’s Amish country again

Secrest Garden by Bruce Stambaugh

The entrance to the Secrest Garden and Arboretum after the tornado.

By Bruce Stambaugh

For the second time this summer, tornadoes caused significant damage in Ohio’s Amish country.

Shortly before 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 16 a powerful tornado touched down on the south edge of Wooster, Ohio along Prairie Lane. The tornado, which the National Weather Service rated an EF2, proceeded east destroying businesses and homes, and crossed Madison Ave. onto the campus of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, a division of The Ohio State University.

The tornado caused extensive damage to campus buildings, including some historical homes used as offices. It also destroyed the machine shop and heavily damaged parts of Secrest Garden and Arboretum, where many people love to walk and relax among the roses, ornamental shrubs and old age trees. The tornado clipped off dozens of the huge trees 20 to 30 feet above the ground.

The Wooster Twp. Fire chief reported that only one person was slightly injured. But she refused transport to the hospital.

The tornado continued on an east northeast path destroying and damaging several other homes and farm buildings. It did considerable damage to the Riceland Golf Course on U.S. 30 south of Orrville. Altogether, the NWS reported that the tornado was on the ground for 12 miles and reached wind speeds of 130 m.p.h. It left a path of destruction 200 yards wide.

Around 6 p.m., an EF1 tornado hit near the rural town of Farmerstown, Ohio in Holmes County about 25 miles south of Wooster. Several homes and barns were destroyed or damaged there. But again, no one was injured, although some farm animals had to be put down. The tornado was on the ground for three miles and reached a maximum speed of 100 m.p.h. It ranged from 50 to 75 yards wide.

As a Skywarn severe weather spotter for north central Holmes County, the Cleveland office of the National Weather Service asked me to photograph the damage at the OARDC. This was prior to knowing of the tornado in Holmes County. No tornado warning was issued for Holmes County.

I arrived at the OARDC shortly before 7 p.m., which left me a little more than a half an hour to take pictures before dark. I shot as many pictures as I could, but due to darkness, was unable to make it entirely around the campus. As I walked back to my car, parked in the arboretum a half mile east of the damaged OARDC buildings, I cut through open fields. I found several places where debris had hit the ground, leaving large gouges in the fields and grass.

The first tornado of the summer hit Holmes County and continued into Tuscarawas County on June 5. The EF1 and EF2 tornado caused extensive damage along its 10 mile path.

A gallery of some of my shots at the OARDC is shown below. Information about the Farmerstown tornado can be found here: http://www.holmescountyjournal.com/.

brick house by Bruce Stambaugh

Trees were snapped and the old Rice House heavily damaged at the OARDC in Wooster, Ohio.

damaged OARDC building by Bruce Stambaugh

One of the many OARDC buildings destroyed by the tornado

View of damaged OARDC building by Bruce Stambaugh

Another view of the building shown above.

Debris and stripped trees at the OARDC by Bruce Stambaugh

Debris and stripped trees at the OARDC.

Large trees down by Bruce Stambaugh

The tornado toppled large trees on the OARDC campus.

The OARDC's machine shop was heavily damaged by the tornado.

The OARDC's machine shop was heavily damaged by the tornado.

Machine shop destroyed by Bruce Stambaugh

Following the tornado's path to the machine shop at the OARDC.

Damage at the OARDC by Bruce Stambaugh

Damaged farm equipment and trees at the OARDC.

More damage around the machine shop by Bruce Stambaugh

More damage around the machine shop at the OARDC.

Another destroyed building at the OARDC by Bruce Stambaugh

Another destroyed building at the OARDC.

Destroyed machine shop by Bruce Stambaugh

The destroyed machine shop at the OARDC.

Debris littered the OARDC campus by Bruce Stambaugh

Debris from the tornado littered the OARDC campus.

OARDC police station by Bruce Stambaugh

Damage was extensive at the building that housed the campus police station.

The agricultural engineer building by Bruce Stambaugh

The agricultural engineering building was destroyed.

Rose garden by Bruce Stambaugh

The OARDC rose garden was heavily damaged.

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Taking time to really see

Marblehead Lighthouse by Bruce Stambaugh

Clouds sail by the historic Marblehead Lighthouse at Marblehead, Ohio.

By Bruce Stambaugh

The day after my favorite resort town, Lakeside, Ohio, ended its gated season, which was Labor Day, I began to see the place in a different light.

Like Cinderella’s carriage, the town had transformed into its natural state overnight. Streets that had bustled for weeks with pedestrians, bicycles, golf carts and motorized vehicles suddenly became quiet. Lakeside’s population had dropped faster than the stock market.

Cottages that had housed happy families all summer were now boarded up for the winter. Businesses once crowded with customers were also shuttered for the season.

Lakeside signs by Bruce Stambaugh

Maintenance workers gathered up traffic signs used during the gated season.

Maintenance crews made their rounds undoing what they had worked so hard to ready three short months ago. They picked up the traffic and parking signs needed to control the passage on the narrow streets with limited parking.

The workers seemed to be in no hurry whatsoever. Perhaps sensing the newfound quietness themselves, they soberly went about their business, the crackling of their portable radios occasionally breaking the hushed spell.

Their pace could have been from the day’s extraordinary heat as much as it was lack of ambition. The land wind wasn’t much help, blocked by the combination of the southerly rise of the peninsula itself, the town’s closely packed cottages and buildings and the giant hardwoods that overshadowed everything.

Fishing at Lakeside Ohio by Bruce Stambaugh

Fishing off the dock at Lakeside, Ohio is a popular pastime.

The only relief, if there was any to be had, could be on the dock, which protrudes a football field length into Lake Erie. Normally crowded with sun worshippers, fishermen, and people just wanting to soak in the scene, I nearly had the cement pier to myself.

The afternoon sun blazed away, and the wind was fierce, but cooler than in town thanks to the lake. I faced my folding chair east away from the wind. I was glad I had.

Freighter at Marblehead, Ohio by Bruce Stambaugh

A freighter took on stone at Marblehead, Ohio.

I had taken both camera and binoculars to while away the time. I enjoyed just scanning the broad horizon that stretched from the islands to Marblehead, where a huge freighter was moored at the stone quarry.

The strong westerly wind whipped the waves furiously. Anchored fishing boats bobbed like fishing line bobbers.

Ring-billed seagulls found security from the wind in the lee of the dock. One played King on the Hill. It had landed on a slightly submerged rock, and lorded it over all the other gulls that floated in the choppy water.

Osprey over Lakeside, Ohio by Bruce Stambaugh

An Osprey sailed over the dock at Lakeside, Ohio.

High above, another bird caught my eye. An osprey sailed with the wind, searching the shallow waters near the shore for unsuspecting fish. Its mate soon joined the hunt. They circled and hovered but always wind-driven east were soon out of view even with binoculars.

I put the glasses down and quickly noticed smaller, streamlined birds dive-bombing the water. They zigged-zagged and glided, then rose up and hurled themselves into the lake like rocks, but only for a few seconds. The small flock of migrating Common and Forster’s Terns put on quite a show in filling up for the long journey south.

Suddenly the stack of the freighter let loose sooty puffs of diesel smoke. It had taken on its load and was ready to sail. Even though I was upwind and a mile away, I could hear the huge, powerful props churn the water as the massive boat slipped away.

Common Tern at Lakeside, Ohio by Bruce Stambaugh

A Forster's Tern readied to plunge into the lake at Lakeside, Ohio.

In less than 20 minutes, it had turned northeast for deeper water, destination unknown to me. I, however, knew mine. I returned to our hospitality house for dinner, glad I had taken the time to observe Lakeside in a slower, even more peaceful mode than usual.

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All I wanted was a new cell phone

By Bruce Stambaugh

All I really wanted was a new cell phone. The battery of the old one was about to give up the ghost.

When I say “old one,” I mean the cell phone I got just two years ago. I liked the phone because it was just what I wanted in a cell phone. It was simple, easy to use, slim, and fit snuggly in my right front pocket, where I keep my cell phone.

About a month before I was eligible to get a new, free phone, according to my contract, the battery quit holding a charge. I can’t imagine that dropping the phone onto the concrete floor of the garage had anything to do with that.

Besides the battery issue, my phone also talked to me, which I found annoying. I would bend over to tie my shoe, and a woman’s voice would spontaneously say from the inside of my pocket, “Please say a command.” She kept it up until I could find the clear button.

My wife was due for a new phone as well. Hers was much older than mine. A year in human time is an eternity by technology standards.

Leary of the national service provider retail stores, we prefer to use the local dealer. We recognize we sacrifice selection for service in doing so. But that’s just fine with us.

The young clerk at the store was friendly and helpful, and cast no disparaging comments my way when I said that all I wanted was a phone. However, she did look a little puzzled. So I thought I owed her an explanation.

Before I could begin, my wife, who has heard the pitch before, interjected that she preferred a phone that would make it easy for her to send text messages. The young sales woman quickly reached into the counter and pulled out a couple of phones, and demonstrated how they slid open.

My wife was almost giddy. Other than the color, either of the phones was just what she wanted.

The clerk returned her attention to me. I resumed my religious stance on cell phones.

“I just want a phone to make and receive calls,” I said simply. “I don’t text. I don’t want the Internet because of the additional cost. I don’t take pictures with my phone, and I don’t tweet.” My wife would have disputed the last point had we not been in a public setting.

Given my strict phone constraints, I only had two choices. I picked the one that best fit in my front pocket, even though it had a camera in it. My old phone did, too, and I never used it. I have a camera.

We arrived home with our new phones a short time later. As I walked up the front stairs, I heard a strange clicking noise like a camera going off in my front pocket. I took another step, and heard another click.

By the time I had reached the top of the steps, I already had two shots of the inside of my pocket. And I hadn’t even made a call.

I couldn’t figure out how this had happened until I discovered that the button that activates the camera was on the outside of the phone. I have no idea why the camera went off, other than to guess that the activation button was more sensitive than I was.

In short order, I figured out how to delete the pair of solid black shots. Apparently the flash comes separately.

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It’s beginning to look a lot like fall already

Oats shocks by Bruce Stambaugh

A field full of oats shocks before being gathered for the thrasher near Berlin, Ohio.

By Bruce Stambaugh

With Labor Day upon us, autumn will be right around the corner. In fact, if you look closely, signs of fall are already evident.

Some of the indicators are obvious, others more subtle. Some are predictable with still others seemingly a bit premature.

The days, often the nicest of the summer, have a sly, natural flaw. Day by day, minutes of daylight are silently subtracted from the previous day’s total. By month’s end, daily darkness will outnumber daylight once again.

The sun itself is moving more towards the center of the horizons at sunrise and sunset. Those driving true east and west running roads have already begun to frequently use their sun visors. The fall fogs, too, have clouded crisp mornings, the consequence of cool nights following warm days.

In the fields, the harvesting has begun. My Amish neighbors have long since gathered up the standing army of oats shocks and wheeled them off wagon load after wagon load to the thrasher.

Now it’s the corn’s turn. The field corn seems to have taken on drought status, drying up almost overnight. Brown has overtaken green as the predominant color in the standing sea. Smart farmers have already begun to cut their supply of silage to replenish the silos.

Fall webworms by Bruce Stambaugh

The homes of fall webworms shine in the sun.

In the woods and along highways, once glossy, emerald leaves have dulled and drooped. Some have already begun to drop without even changing color. Now and again a black walnut can be found standing stark naked, save for the cache of fall webworm nests it has involuntarily collected.

In the gardens, the picking of produce is a daily chore. Cucumbers, onions and tomatoes have hit their peek. Kitchens are cluttered with utensils for canning and freezing. The ripened fruits and vegetables that aren’t consumed at the dinner table find their way into jars and containers.

Even the sounds of the season have changed. Only a few American Robins continue to sing, and most likely they are sophomores practicing for next year’s prom. Instead of gathering nesting materials and snagging worms and insects, parent birds lead their fledglings to watering holes for liquid refreshment and necessary bathing.

Well-worn butterfly by Bruce Stambaugh

A well-worn tiger swallowtail butterfly took advantage of some wildflowers.

The volume and frequency of the cicada and katydid songs have lessoned considerably. Even the crickets have quieted down.

Butterfly on phlox by Bruce Stambaugh

A butterfly enjoys late blooming phlox.

Butterflies of all sizes and colors squeeze whatever nutrients they can out of the fading cornflowers and black-eyed susans. The humming birds, too, seem to sense an urgency to store up extra energy for their upcoming southern vacation travel.

Squirrels are in their glory, cutting as many beechnuts, hickory nuts and walnuts as they can. Thrifty creatures that they are, they also bury future meals for harder times ahead. Only they can’t always remember where they put their stash.

Next spring, when the saplings begin to appear, we will learn just how forgetful the squirrels were. But between now and then, many pleasant days lay ahead, and probably some less than desirable ones, too.

There is yet one more indicator that fall is knocking on our door. Campaign signs have already begun to litter urban, suburban and rural roadsides. They are as prolific and unsightly as the ugly webbed homes of the worms.

The obnoxious yet gaudy campaign posters are a human-induced reminder of what nature is about to bring. Autumn will be here before we know it, and there is little we can do about it except to enjoy the ever-changing colorful show.

Cows grazed at sunset by Bruce Stambaugh

Cows grazed on a hillside at sunset.

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